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Students learn outdoor skills

Millions of people in the United States are involved in outdoor activities like camping, hunting and fishing.

Somerset High School has a class that helps students develop their interest in these activities.

Outdoor Education 1 and 2 are elective classes in the physical education curriculum. The class is taught by Grant Belisle. Before starting the class, he went to outdoor classes taught in River Falls, St. Croix Falls and Ellsworth to get ideas about the direction the class could take.

The first section of "Outdoor Education" deals with a broader spectrum of outdoor activities, including camping, fishing and building outdoor survival shelters.

The second section of the class is focused more toward fishing. One of the main parts of the class is students constructing their own fishing rods. The students pay for their own materials to build their fishing rods.

Belisle said the courses are part of the school district's effort to teach students about life-long activities. Belisle said "job opportunities in the outdoor world are endless." These classes help students find out if they would be interested in working in outdoors-related businesses.

The first section of the course accommodated 24 students. Because the building of fishing rods requires significant individual space, 12 students were accepted for the second section.

Belisle said he enjoys outdoor activities, but there were areas he had to learn before starting the class. Former Somerset substitute teacher Brian Schuster taught him the basics of building a fishing rod. Tom Walters of Somerset, a well-known custom fishing rod maker, has volunteered his time to help the students.

This Thursday is the last day of the term for the Outdoor Education 2 and the students will spend the morning on a class fishing excursion. Earlier in the term they went on a class ice fishing outing.

The fishing class goes into all aspects of the sport. After the students complete their rods, they learn fly tying and lure making. They've made spinner lures and tried making plastic mold lures.

The class also looks into different approaches to fishing. The students study different species of fish, lake and river topography, styles of rods, reels and boats, the use of sonar and the different techniques for pursuing each species of fish.

"You can go to the Mississippi (River) and try 10 different techniques to catch walleyes. It's endless," Belisle said.

In Outdoor Education 1, the students spent several days in the middle of winter building survival shelters. In the wooded area on the school property purchased three years ago, the students used fallen trees and limbs to build their structures.

The students also learned how to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as part of the class.

Belisle said he hopes to purchase snowshoes in the future, so students could learn how to use snowshoes as part of the class.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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