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Special Education Teacher Gets Students Hooked on Fishing in Mitchellville

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MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa - A handful of students learned to cast their rods and reel in the big fish this summer thanks to a new summer fishing club organized by one of Mitchellville Elementary School's special education teachers.

"Most of the kids we brought had never been fishing before," said Joe Nelson, principal of Mitchellville Elementary. "One day out here at the pond, pulling blue-gills in one after another, and the kids were hooked."

Nelson came up with the idea for a summer fishing program as a brand-new elementary school was being built. He said students usually return to school for five weeks over summer break for summer school. But this year, since construction on a new school was underway, there was no summer school. All of the sudden, Nelson said, they needed to find a way to get kids active.

"We wanted to get the kids out of their houses, from playing video games all day, and get them active outside," he said.

Nelson handed the idea off to special education teacher Taylor Howard, who recruited several students from his classroom to get involved.

"We're just teaching them a whole bunch of life skills," said Howard. "Patience, the first day, was a tough one."

Starting June 6th, the fishing club met at the Southeast Polk Community School District's pond, near the junior high school. All gear, including fishing rods, hooks, and bait, were donated at no cost by Bass Pro Shops.

"Near the end of the summer, we had kids helping out other kids on the other side of the pond, and near the last day of summer we could basically allow them to go all by themselves, so it was a really exciting experience," he said.

The club met for six weeks, and while it was just a small idea to replace summer school this year, it had quite a ripple effect; Howard said the kids loved it so much, they can't wait to come back next summer.

"It was a huge success," he said. "We'd love to get more students involved next year at Mitchellville Elementary."