In the News
Anderson: Class project isn’t only landing a whopper; it’s landing outdoors stewards
MAY 30, 2019 — 2:55PM
Rick Webster, Braden DePaulis, and Jon Olson, left to right, of the Spartan Angling class with a sturgeon on a class trip.T
Maybe Luke Adam has the answer to America’s growing nature deficit disorder.
Adam, a math teacher in northeast Minnesota, is the brains behind a new fishing class at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School that is hooking kids in ways even they didn’t think they would be hooked.
Called Spartan Angling — after the school’s sports-team name — the class next week will conclude its debut semester. Establishment of the course followed Adam’s successful funding request a year ago to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Our school board, principal and superintendent have all been very supportive,” Adam said. “They understand that, historically, fishing has been an important part of northern Minnesota culture that has been passed from generation to generation, and that it’s a great activity for everyone.”
But even in northern Minnesota, some youth are missing out on the outdoors traditions their forebears enjoyed. Some kids can’t afford to fish, Adam said, or otherwise don’t have an opportunity. Others are being raised by single parents who don’t know how to fish or are too busy to go.
Whatever the case, an important link that connects the past, the present and the future has weakened, Adam said, or is missing altogether.
“Our district has a 50-percent free or reduced lunch population and a 30-percent special education population,” Adam said. “By the same token, our district is full of great kids who are passionate about the outdoors, but sometimes don’t have the knowledge, means or equipment to participate.”
Adam’s fishing-class idea was sparked when he saw a DNR publication noting the agency had grant money for programs designed to recruit, retain and/or reactivate hunters and anglers.
Growing up in Keewatin, Adam was bitten early by the fishing bug. His grandfather had him on the water often and also took him to Canada on a fly-in trip.
“That was a walleye trip, and when you’re exposed at a young age to Canadian fishing, it hooks you for life,” he said.
When Adam learned the DNR had funds to lure Minnesotans into traditional outdoor activities, he summoned his twin passions — teaching and fishing — to write a $20,000 grant request to underwrite a fishing class (see spartanangling.com) at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School.
“My personal passion,” Adam wrote in the application, “is to equip high school students with the knowledge, experiences, awareness and conservation mentality to foster lifelong skills to enjoy angling for many years.”
Meeting five days a week, the credit-earning class is open to students in grades 9-12. Thirteen kids were enrolled in the semester just ending. Two are of American Indian descent and one is a girl.
“The class seems to attract kids who are looking to identify with an activity,” Adam said. “Many aren’t involved in typical school sports. And some know nothing about fishing. I had one student who didn’t know what an ice auger was.”
Twenty-nine students have signed up for Adam’s angling class for next year, an impressive number, considering a typical Nashwauk-Keewatin High School graduating class numbers total between 40 and 50 students.
“Some students who enrolled this semester thought we would go fishing all the time,” Adam said, chuckling. “But the class is more than that.”
A lot more, as it turns out.
Adam’s goal is to teach children that “a whole gamut of knowledge” comes with fishing. What must anglers consider before they fish? While they fish? After they fish?
As importantly, what makes one lake healthy and able to sustain good fish populations and another lake unhealthy, with no fish?
To teach the class, Adam had to relinquish the hour of preparation time he and other teachers are allowed daily. But that was an easy sacrifice to make, he said.
“This isn’t just a one-day shot at fishing” Adam wrote in his grant application, “but instead the goal is to build a foundation of knowledge, skills, and conservation awareness that creates success on the water and a respect for the environment.”
In class, students learn to identify various fish species, their habitat needs and how to catch them. Fish and water conservation are stressed, as is identification of various invasive species and the threats they pose to fish and the broader environment.
Adam has recruited individual anglers and fishing clubs to share knowledge with the fishing class, and a portion of the grant money was used to buy rods, reels and other gear that students can borrow.
“The class does go fishing,” Adam said. “Our big trip this last semester was to the Rainy River for sturgeon. Our principal, Ranae Seykora, went along, too. And the kids caught a big one — a 5-footer!”
Driven to see his fishing class become a staple in Nashwauk-Keewatin High School and in other schools, Adam is seeking new funding. The DNR money runs out after the fall semester, and he can’t reapply for the same grant.
“I’m not the kind of guy to let something like this die,” he said. “I know I’m doing a great thing for kids in my district, and I also know my students will walk out of Spartan Angling with a new respect for our natural resources, and that will help the cycle of outdoors participation in our area continue.”
Outdoors columnist and editor Dennis Anderson joined the Star Tribune in 1993 after serving in the same positions at the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 13 years. His column topics vary widely, and include canoeing, fishing, hunting, adventure travel and conservation of the email@example.com
When Luke Adam asked his Spartan Angling class at Nashwauk High School the first day of class one fish they wanted to catch–that fish was the Lake Sturgeon. The chance to catch a four to five foot fish was enough to lure the kids to the infamous Rainy River. These students unanimously voted to target this species as the “big” trip for the class. A date fishing date was set, and all the class had to do wait for the day!
Spartan Angling was founded at Nashwauk High School in January of 2019 from a DNR grant aimed to recruit and retain anglers. Math teacher Luke Adam, an avid fisherman, wanted to bring angling knowledge, experiences, and provide opportunities for kids to become lifelong anglers. The Spartan Angling experience exposes them to Minnesota fish species, locations and seasonal patterns, tactics, slot limits, over harvest, invasive species, shoreline management, and several other topics. The class is way different than emerging fishing teams, because the kids learn a lot more about the art and science of angling.
Eleven students from the Spartan Angling class, Luke, and the principal Ranae Seykora made the trip May 9th to Baudette Minnesota. 11 inches of snow fell the night before in Duluth, but luckily the eager anglers were driving up in rain instead. As we went through Bigfork, the skies began to part and slivers of sunshine began streaking through the ski. Miles of no cell phone service had kids working on homework and talking face to face! It was a welcomed change to the youth anglers. The instructor, Luke Adam had formed a fishing partnership with Border View Lodge and the kids were loaded into two charter boats and Luke’s Alumacraft Tournament Pro. Border View Lodge values youth angling and gave Luke a deep discount on the trip with the students. The students created a thank you poster in partnership with the NK Shop Class and hand wrote letters of appreciation to the resort.
The boats anchored in the last few miles of the Rainy River near the the resort. Several sturgeon were spotted surfacing in the morning by guides and students were dressed in ice fishing gear to battle the elements. It didn’t take too long for Braden DePaulis to tie into a prehistoric beast that was making her journey to spawn in a portion of the river or tributary. Screams and arms waving with excitement echoed from the charter boat as other boats kept hearing, “We’re hooked up!” DePaulis decided to share the fish of a lifetime with other anglers in boat. Jon Olson, Rick Webster, and James Newman all got to tussle with the white bellied monster for several minutes, as principal Seykora captured smiles on camera. As the whiskers broke the surface the excitement peaked with sheer screams and sound carrying for miles. The anglers had won–a nearly FIVE FOOT lake sturgeon was grunted and wrestled into the boat by the guide and adrenaline rushed anglers. It was like the red carpet was rolled out for the crew as camera flashes and “slime high fives” slapped the air with excitement. The David v.s. Goliath was won and the migrating mother of thousands of eggs was gently released into the murky waters of the river to restart her journey.
Other anglers did manage to catch a few smaller sturgeon, suckers, and eelpout. The fish were all released and memories were made by all. Students now know the tactics, locations, and habitat to look for as their enter their driving stages of life and can trailer their 12-14 foot boats to the river. They now are able to identify the scutes on the fish, baits used, and what to look for on the rod as they wait for a bite. They know why the sturgeon has large pectoral fins and a tail designed to travel long distances to forage and spawn. They are successful graduates of Sturgeon University. They can now feel the excitement of not being able to sleep and create memories for themselves, friends, and future families. They are the future of fishing and experiences like this start the fishing traditions that are being lost in today’s society. I am proud of my anglers and they were incredibly appreciative of their experience today. My grandfather, Dave Heritage, who passed the priceless gift of teaching me fishing, would be so proud today.
Spartan Angling is in need sustainable funds to continue this class. We are looking for sponsors and business to help financially sustain trips like this for kids. We are also looking for avid anglers to share knowledge and speak to kids. If you are interested in donating time, money or resources, please e-mail Luke: firstname.lastname@example.org to help continue this opportunity to youth at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School and provide these memories for years to come.
N-K HIGH SCHOOL REELS IN NEW CLASS
NASHWAUK — Students at Nashwauk-Keewatin (N-K) High School will be spending the spring searching for the perfect fishing spot.
The school board unanimously approved adding an angling class to the high school’s offerings for next semester.
The motion for approval was made during a meeting last week by Director Blake Liend and seconded by Director Dave Bevacqua, and is contingent on the district’s cost for the class not exceeding $3,000.
Teacher Luke Adam requested the class be offered, noting he received a $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to offer it as a science elective. The grant won’t cover the entire cost of the class, but he estimated the difference will be about $2,000.
“I love to fish, and am excited to teach students the entire gamut of angling,” he said. “They’ll learn everything from conservation to methods, stocking, careers, invasive species … everything that’s available in the entire fishing industry.”
Adam will incorporate parts of the Minnesota Aqua curriculum, but said that’s geared more toward elementary students. The majority of the class will be his own curriculum, and fishing guides will come speak to students.
And, of course, the kids will get to go fishing. Some of the cost to offer the class will go toward purchasing rods and reels, tackle, bait and other fishing equipment.
“Some kids who will be taking this class don’t have tackle or ice augers, and some have never fished before,” Adam said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for me to get out of my content area and teach something I’m really passionate about to some students at the high school.”
–Tony Potter: Hibbing Daily Tribune