LITTLE ROCK — Thanks to a partnership between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation, Arkansas schools can now add semester-length programs focused on outdoor recreation that qualify for a Physical Education credit.
The Outdoor Adventures curriculum developed by OTF has been taught in more than 600 schools in 37 states, meeting all requirements to be used as a co-ed Physical Education course, a local elective or an Agricultural Science Wildlife Management course.
The program differs from the many educator resources currently available from the AGFC by including a rounded list of lesson plans and curriculum to support a full semester of outdoor education.
“We have Hunter Education and Boater Education in many schools, as well as our [Arkansas National Archery in the Schools] and Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports as after-school activities for students to engage with us,” Hollie Sanders, assistant chief of education for the AGFC. “But we just can’t devote the staff time to be available at all of the schools in the state for a full semester at a time. This partnership bridges that gap.”
In addition to conservation concepts, the curriculum offered in Outdoor Adventures includes activities such as angling, archery, camping, wilderness survival, outdoor cooking, fly-tying and paddlesports. More than 34 units are available for teachers to choose from to mold the program to fit their students and community. Many of the AGFC’s other programs are addressed, letting students know about the many ways they can become more involved in the outdoors.
“I wish we had things like this when I was in school,” Sanders said. “Instead of only being exposed to traditional sports like softball and volleyball, we could have also had an opportunity to go outside to shoot a bow or a slingshot, maybe learn how to paddle a canoe or fish. Outdoors skills are healthy forms of exercise people may enjoy for the rest of their life, well beyond their youth, and you don’t have to be the most athletic person in the room to excel at them.”
Archery in the Schools is one program that students can springboard into thanks to Outdoor Adventures. The AGFC even has a way to offset the cost of implementing the program through its conservation education grants.
“The program costs $1,000 for the curriculum, but the school will receive a matching amount of $1,000 for the supplies needed for classes,” Sanders said. “In the future that first $1,000 may be eligible for conservation education grants collected from fine money, so it’s possible to start the program with zero cost to the school. Schools that already have equipment from other AGFC programs may be able to work from that end, using that equipment as the match for the curriculum cost. They just need to reach out to OTR and the AGFC to see how we can get this program started at their location.”
Even if educators cannot find a way to fit the Outdoors Adventures program in their schedules this year, Sanders says the AGFC has many other resources available to help them deliver the conservation and outdoor education message, despite challenges brought about by COVID-19.
“We’ve adapted many of our traditional programs to meet the needs of educators while maintaining the current need for social distancing,” Sanders said. “We can deliver many teacher workshops for professional development and classroom programs through online meeting platforms and can work with our educators to make sure our youth have the opportunity to learn about Arkansas’s great outdoors and find their outside.”
Visit www.agfc.com/en/education or call 501-223-6300 to learn more about education programs offered by the AGFC. For more information on signing up for the Outdoor Adventures program, contact Scot McClure at 972-504-9008 or email scot@GoOTF.com.