At Marion County Knight Academy, it’s common knowledge that every student participates in a school club during monthly club day meetings. But what came as a surprise to students this year was the addition of a Fishing Rod Club thanks to MCKA Student Support Interventionist Keith Hamm.
Hamm used a grant from the Marion County Education Foundation (MCEF) along with a partnership with Mud Hole, a fishing rod and tackle supplier, to provide interested students with the equipment to have the club. Each member will build a fishing rod during club days throughout the year which they will get to keep.
“It’s been fantastic,” Hamm said. “A lot of students were really excited when they found out about the club. They wanted to be part of it because fishing is something they already do.”
Most clubs at MCKA are capped at 30 members due to classroom size. But the Fishing Rod Club, which meets in the school’s cafeteria, was opened up to additional members -- 38 in all. Hamm said there were still more students who were interested in joining, but the club couldn’t accommodate any additional members.
Hamm, a fisherman himself, said he discovered Mud Hole’s Fishing in Education program last spring while attending a fishing exposition. The company agreed to provide fishing rods to Hamm for the club in exchange for providing video footage of the club meetings to use in their promotional materials. Hamm used the funds he received from the MCEF to pay for other supplies and consumables.
To help prepare, Hamm built his own rod during the summer with his son using materials he ordered himself.
At the club’s most recent meeting, students were locating and marking the spines of their rods. Hamm and MCKA Media Specialist Jill Gaddie, who helps sponsor the club, made their way from table to table working with students.
For 8th grader Trent Lewis, joining the club was an obvious decision.
“I really like fishing and I didn’t want to join any of the other clubs because I’m not into them,” Lewis said, adding: “I’m learning new things -- I’ve never built a fishing rod before.”
Fellow 8th grader Brayden Ballard also joined the club since it was a natural extension of a hobby from outside of school.
“I like fishing, and that’s what I do every weekend,” Ballard said. “I’d recommend this club especially if you think you’ll use the rod.”
Hamm is hoping that all members of the club will get to use their rod. Although it hasn’t officially been scheduled, Hamm said his plan is to arrange to take the students on a field trip to a local lake during the spring semester to use the rods they will have completed. Hamm also said he expects to have enough reels donated to outfit all of the students’ rods.
Perhaps the biggest indication of the club’s success is that Hamm says students are spending time outside of school as well to continue to work on their rods.
The club is just one of many offered at MCKA, and the fact that all students are members of a club is a point of pride for principal Sara Brady. Originally, joining a club was optional, but Brady wasn’t a fan of some students being involved while others stayed in class.
“I didn’t like the thought of kids being uninvolved while others were out with their clubs being involved. I didn’t like that dynamic,” she said.
To help students find a club in which they want to be involved, Brady encouraged staff to be creative in their offerings.
“I tell [staff members] at the beginning of the year to think of something you’re interested in or the kids might be interested in,” Brady said. Students then get an overview of club offerings near the beginning of the school year before joining.
“It’s all about being active in your school and belonging to something that interests you,” Brady said. “When it’s Club Day, everybody’s moving, everybody has a moment where they belong.”