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OUTDOORS: A teacher shares his passion for fishing with his charges
A Manassas high school teacher is taking a lifelong love for fishing and the outdoors and incorporating it into the physical education classes he teaches freshman students.
Dave Lasher credits his father for instilling in him a passion for fishing as they regularly plied the waters of upstate New York near Syracuse and Lake Ontario during his boyhood.
Lasher, a standout wrestler in high school and college, now coaches Osbourn High School’s freshman football team and its wrestling team, in addition to teaching health and physical education.
“In the spring we do a phys-ed outdoors unit because it’s so beautiful outside. We’ll do ultimate Frisbee, golf or some other type of outdoor activity,” Lasher said.
“This past year, I had one student hounding me about fishing. I had toyed with the idea for years. I looked at him and said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ He had an ear-to-ear smile for a week and a half. He also helped other students, shared his fishing stories,” he added.
Lasher began seeking grants and donations from the major sporting goods stores to equip the program. The local Walmart donated a small gift card he used to buy a few Zebco rod-and-reel combos. He augmented the teaching tools with gear from his and his father-in-law’s personal collections, and also purchased items with his personal funds.
His father-in-law Chuck McCormick, who lives in Fredericksburg, met with a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation police officer who supplied the class with written materials, maps, rule books and more.
Lasher packs loads of material into the 3-day unit, including rod and reel functions, casting, discussions about the evolution of fishing equipment, fish species, lures and bait for freshwater fishing.
Recognizing that most high school kids today carry some type of smartphone, Lasher integrated DGIF’s “Hunt Fish Virginia” and “Fishing Knots” apps into the course.
In one block of instruction, they bring up their apps and start tying fishing knots, beginning with the improved clinch knot.
He also promotes water safety.
“I actually wear a life preserver while teaching the course,” he said with a laugh. “People would harass me. I’d be standing in a little wading pool that they’d cast into or at the chalkboard, but the need for water safety is something I want to stick in their mind.”
NEED FOR STRUCTURE
Lasher said he believes kids need better connection to the outdoors.
“We focus so much on tests and scores, that this was a way to get back to basics as far as being outdoors and being self-sufficient,” he explained, adding that many parents today seem too busy or simply find it more convenient to say “No,” when it comes to working in outdoors time with their children.
“That was my internal drive behind this,” he said.
“Kids crave structure, whether they tell you they do or they don’t. When you have something like fishing and you’re dealing with kids that are, basically, landlocked except for occasional trips to the bay or some other water, they’re kind of winging it. By breaking our instruction down to the
basics of handling a fishing rod, tying knots, and how to properly cast, they can then go on their vacations and show their brothers and sisters, or help mom and dad. When they see a fishing show on television, they can feel somewhat a part of that,” he explained.
“These kids [mostly ninth-graders] were so receptive to it because there was some aspect in which each excelled. It could have been knot tying, casting, learning things about each fish species and bait. We even got into discussions about how to tell crappie species apart by the number of spines on the dorsal fin. It was probably one of the better units I taught all year,” Lasher said.
Lasher hopes to expand the instruction unit next year, adding more topics
and additional days of instruction, but adds that equipment upgrades will
At 40 children per class and more than 220 per year using the equipment, the most inexpensive setups—the only ones he could afford —tended to wear out, especially the reels.
He plans to reach out to organizations such as the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (takemefishing.org) to assess their interest and ability to support his efforts.
“I love fishing, grew up fishing. My dad brought me up fishing. That’s what I think of when it comes to going outdoors; you’ve got to put a line in the water,” he shared. “I don’t claim to be the best fisherman in the world but I love it and if I can pass on just a little bit of that love and knowledge to some kids so they can experience it, that’s great.”
To contact Lasher, call 703/881.1665 or email email@example.com.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on outdoors things to do around Fredericksburg and the region, sign up for The Free Lance-Star’s newest e-newsletter, Mighty Outdoors, at fredericksburg.com/topics/mightyoutdoors/about.html