DELAVAN — The schedules of high school students across Wisconsin include some pretty standard studies.
Students get a hefty dose of required math, English, reading, science and social studies.
That’s no different at Delavan-Darien High School. But any student will tell you, it’s the elective classes that can really make high school interesting and fun. That’s where DDHS has a distinct advantage.
In addition to the required credits needed to graduate, DDHS students can also get a hefty dose of hunting skills, snowmobile driving skills, trapping skills and boating skills.
That’s right. DDHS is one of two of high schools in the state to offer a semester-long course in many of the state’s outdoor recreational pursuits. It’s called Wisconsin Natural Resources Certifications, and it’s new at DDHS this year.
By the end of the class, which is taught by agricultural sciences teacher Marty Speth, DDHS students can choose to seek state certifications in hunter safety, trapping, boating safety, and all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile safety. They can also get a half-credit of science toward graduation.
“I know we had a lot of kids interested in natural resources, whether that was as a hobby or for a future career,” Speth said, noting that many DDHS students hunt, boat, and/or work at area marinas. “Offering this helps our student population between their potential careers, and their hobbies and interests.”
Speth became a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources certified instructor in all five areas over summer through training provided through the DNR and his professional agricultural teacher organization, the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators.
“I’m getting calls now from other non-high school people asking if we can hold another class so they can become certified in one area or another,” Speth said. “We’re also getting people from other school districts, after they find out we have this, telling me they wish they had it for their students and wondering how they can get it.”
The course is open to all DDHS students with no prerequisites. Currently, 61 students are enrolled in two sections. It is mostly upperclassmen and male-dominated, but more than a dozen girls and a few freshmen are taking it, too, Speth said.
The order of the instruction is largely seasonal, with boating safety first while there is still open water in Wisconsin. Hunter safety follows, followed by trapper certifications, which is the current unit being studied. The last section is ATV and snowmobile safety.
This school year, 36 students became hunter safety certified, and 27 students become boater safety certified by the DNR. Students have to pay the state fees for the certifications.
Speth is working on creating partnerships with area businesses to provide more hands-on field experience for the students seeking certifications. The Delavan Sportsman’s Club provided use of their facility for hunter safety shooting, where students were able to shoot .22 rifles and try out trap and skeet shooting with shotguns. Later this year, MAXX Motorsports in Darien will provide field services for students seeking ATV and snowmobile safety certificates, Speth said.
DNR wardens and staff also come in for every unit to speak to students on a variety of issues.
“It’s nice to have this,” said DDHS senior Danny Loomer, who plans on attending UW-Stevens Point to become a DNR warden. “I don’t have to take all these certification classes in summer and it’s a graded class for credit. Some of the certifications I had, but some I needed, and it was easier to take them here in a classroom setting.”
“I think it’s convenient to have a class like this in school so I don’t have to do all these certifications on my own time,” said senior Landon Schramski. “I’m touching up on some of the stuff I already have, but I’m also becoming more aware of environmental issues. I feel I can actually become a better steward of the environment.”
Teaching the certifications in high school came out of 2011 Wisconsin Act 168, which deals with a number of sporting heritage issues. The act “authorizes a school board to award a half credit toward high school graduation to a high school pupil who successfully completes the hunter education program, the bow hunter education program, or the trapper education program,” according to a Wisconsin Legislative Council act memo.