With the beginning of the school year, Camden Middle School (CMS) became the first middle school in Kershaw County to implement and offer a full Outdoor Life Unit program as a physical education course. Currently, all three Kershaw County School District (KCSD) high schools offer the course, as do a few others in South Carolina.
CMS said the school worked with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to make the course as effective and fulfilling as possible for students. The program includes a number of outdoor activities that students can partake in that gives them the opportunity to get outside, become familiar with nature and be active.
The Outdoor Life Unit program provides students with the knowledge that they need in order to practice safe hunting and boating skills. Students also are given the opportunity to learn archery and fishing. All instructors who teach the course are certified.
Not all students are required to take the course. There are alternatives but, according to Principal Byron Johnson, one major reason why the school chose to offer the full outdoor life unit to students was to provide them with more ways to be active and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“It would be naive of a teacher today to think that all students would want to do sports such as basketball,” Johnson said. “It is a challenge for physical education teachers to get students engaged in movement due to technology, so I applaud their efforts to constantly seek different avenues to get students engaged.”
Aside from getting outdoors to practice sports, students also get lessons about nature.
“The course is mainly based on conservation; the science of conservation,” said DNR Sgt. Scott Stephens, the agency’s law enforcement and education coordinator.
Students spend time reading about the material before they are introduced to any hands-on activity. By having to read and do written assignments for the course, students are trained to really absorb and grasp the rules and regulations dealing with the outdoor activities they will take part in and they will take those with them when they go outdoors to practice them. One thing students will be learning in the hunter’s education part of the course is firearm safety. However, students will not be given the opportunity to handle any guns.
“My number one goal is to teach these kids safety first,” CMS Physical Education Instructor and Athletic Director Jesse Gates said. “We want to make sure that they take the time to take in the information.”
Although the course is fairly new, many students are excited and interested in taking part in it and many parents are excited for their children to have the opportunity to participate.
CMS parent Tyrell Coleman, who is also the Camden Police Department officer in charge of the city’s school resource officers, said the course sounds great and he enjoys talking with his son about it.
“I think it’s great that they are learning about the outdoors,” said Coleman. “The gun safety part is important because accidents that happen to people happen because they are not familiar with guns.”
Students who complete the unit will receive the South Carolina Hunter’s Education Certificate.