Schools in the Sooner State are keenly aware of what their students want. And what is it that students want? Well, increased access to outdoor related activities, including: archery, bow hunting, hunter safety, shotgun sports, and fishing.
In an effort to meet these demands – in particular the growing demand for shotgun sports – the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is rolling out its Shotgun Training and Education Program (STEP) for schools that have had success with other disciplines, i.e. archery or bow hunting, but have not yet fully embraced shotgun sports.
According to the Wildlife Dept., the STEP program offers a broad range of learning opportunities for beginners as well as experienced hunters with special emphasis on teaching basic wing-shooting techniques and fundamentals. The program projects a positive image toward hunting and general acceptance of responsible gun ownership.
To integrate STEP, the Wildlife Dept. is using the widely successful ‘Archery in The Schools’ program as a framework.
Currently, there are 310 schools that participate in the archery program. As a result, thousands of students often go on to compete in annual archery competitions, including regional and state competitions.
But the ‘Archery in The Schools’ program isn’t just about promoting archery, but the other outdoor disciplines associated with it, as Colin Berg, information and education coordinator for the Wildlife Dept. explained to Kelly Bostian of Tulsa World.
“Of the 310 in Archery in the Schools, 100 taught hunter education this year, 63 of those taught the Explore Bowhunting curriculum and 40 taught fishing,” Berg said.
By adding STEP into the mix, the overall objective is to have as many schools participating in as many outdoor-related activities as possible.
To some extent, Future Farmers of America, an independent organization that helps young people develop career, leadership and life skills, has already done much of the legwork with respect to introducing STEP curriculum into school programs. The FFA holds five regional contests and a statewide shooting competition each year for students.
However, by officially integrating STEP into the growing package of outdoor activities the Dept. offers to schools, more teachers will be trained on how to administer shooting curriculum and therefore more students will have access to shotgun sports.
“We’re just going to make it more widely applicable as a scholastic shooting sports program where you might have the math or science teacher or the gym teacher who teaches or coaches,” Berg explained.