By T. Rasmussen

Friday, June 14th a group of students visited the Weiser Community Fishing Pond to put to the test the fishing skills they had been learning about all week at the Migrant STEM Camp. A grant was received that allowed a week long STEM camp to be put together for students who come from migrant families, this was the first time a camp like this specifically for migrant children was held. Thirteen students were able to attend this years camp.

Damon Courtois, a local teacher, helped lead the camp and shared a little about it stating, “I am a member of the Weiser Elks and I got a hold of the Indianhead Fly Fishing Club who does a lot of work down here at the pond too. I thought if we could come together and put on a fishing camp for the kids, introduce them to a skill they can use for the rest of their life and introduce an activity that Weiser has for them, it would be a real nice start to their summer. Now they can come down here and spend some time here over the next month and a half”. Courtois said there were many activities leading up to Fridays fishing day, “What I really wanted them to understand was the basic parts of a fish. I wanted them to understand their organ structure and outer structure. We built some salmon out of paper and we stuffed them with newspaper and labeled the outer parts. We diagramed their innards on the other side of their salmon.” Students also used an old Japanes art form called gyotaku printing to make fish prints from rubber fish. The group borrowed fishing poles from Idaho Fish and Game and were able to use them to practice casting with plastic fish before the big fishing day. Indianhead Fly Fishing Club taught the kids about tying knots, how to set their poles up, what kind of gear to use and they took the group down to Bi-Mart where they bought bait.

Three high school student, Stephanie Vasquez, Edgar Lazaro and Erika Lazaro, who originally volunteered for Pioneers STEM camp the week before decided that they wanted to stay on another week to volunteer for this camp as well. Stephanie Lazaro had helped in previous years she shared, “It has been really fun helping the kids learn about fishing. Last year I had volunteered for the migrant program and decided to do it again this year. It’s been really fun with them.” Vasquez joined the group because of her friend  Erika, “I really ended up liking it and I want to keep helping and volunteering.” Edgar shared his reason for volunteering stating, “I thought it would be a great experience for the kids and for myself. My dad has taught me about fishing and I thought I could also learn more.”

“Indianhead Fly Fishing Club members are here today along with some Elks to make sure the kids are successful, safe and most importantly have a good time,” shared Courtois. Ray Perkins a member of the Indianhead Fly Fishers Club along with other club members attended the fishing day at the pond to teach students different aspects of the pound, fishing, and of course help them fish. Perkins himself has a background knowledge of fish, he at one time was a fish biologist in Ontario for the state of Oregon. “I will be talking about pounds and the fish in general. I will share with the kids what the fish need and what they like. I plan to just listen to what the kids interest are and what they want to know and answer their questions.”

Rosario Ixta, migrant liaison, shared that she felt the camp went well, “This is the first year we have done something like this. The kids have really enjoyed it. They are really motivated and excited. It gets me excited to see them! A lot of these kids have never been fishing themselves, they never have had this experience. Just giving them this life skill that they will never forget for the rest of their lives is just exciting.” Courtois too felt the camp was a success, “The kids had a great attitude. We had a lot of help from the community, which made things much nicer. We had high school helpers who volunteered their time this week. I feel like it was a great experience for the kids and a great experience for me as well. I was able to reach out and network with different programs and bring it all  together for today. It was a fun deal. What I would really like the community to understand is that the pond is here to enjoy, it’s here for kids and adults. We have clubs in the area like the Elks and Indianhead Fly Fishing Club that are always willing to help out or provide outreach, especially for kids.” The money from the camp was from a grant and if there is funding next year Courtois would really like to do it again, “If the money is there. I think it is a worthwhile activity. I think we could even get more kids out here next year. I think this is something maybe we could continue for the next few years. This year the grant was only for students from migrant families, but maybe next year we could expand that out to service more kids, that would be cool.”

 

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