The passing of Arkansas Senate Bill 161 now allows all public schools in the state to offer hunting safety courses. Those courses will count toward students earning physical education credits and are available to students in grades 5-12. The bill was sponsored by Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Trent Garner and Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Jeff Wardlaw. According to The Congressional Sportsman, one of the bill’s major benefits was to make new hunter recruitment easier and more accessible. But there are additional side-benefit’s, too. The Congressional Sportsman says, “Hunter education courses are an excellent opportunity to introduce middle and high school students to a variety of topics related to conservation and our outdoor heritage. Further, these opportunities provide educators with an opportunity to introduce students to important concepts like the proper and responsible handling of a firearm in a controlled setting.”
Education platforms are already underway through the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation (OTF), which has partnered with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. OTF Board Chair Ricky Fairchild said in a statement, “This great news is made even better as P.E. teachers or school districts will not need to reinvent the wheel and develop a curriculum.”
OTF’s Outdoor Adventures program covers angler, boating, archer, and hunter education, archery, plus orienteering, survival skills, camping, outdoor cooking, and more. Outdoor Adventures teachers can pick units specific to their region and local ecosystems. “As many schools return to in-person classes, this offers a new and engaging way to get students focused after a year of in-home learning,” said Scot McClure, OTF director of education. “Some educators return to the classroom needing to develop entirely new curriculums. Outdoor Adventures has that curriculum ready to go.”
Currently, the Outdoor Adventures program is offered in 657 schools across 41 states, with more than 65,000 students participating annually. Since 1981, there have been over 350,000 graduates.