Leader photo/ALY GIBSON Knickerbocker Lake, which was shallow in some areas due to the summer drought, filled with brightly colored boats as students paddled out toward the middle and tried the different types of boats at the campground.

Archived Story

DUHS students learn the ropes

Published 4:33pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

As the second week of school rounded out, 23 Dowagiac Union High School students of Linda O’Keefe’s life skills and healthy lifestyles class headed for shore Thursday morning to experience the fun, and proper safety skills, of boating.

For more than five years, O’Keefe, a teacher at Union High School, has traveled with her students to Oak Shores Campground in Decatur to let them experience something new on the waters of Knickerbocker Lake. In the life skills classroom, students learned about the type of boats, rowing techniques and proper boating safety. Then the lessons are followed up with the field trip, in which the owners of the campground provide life jackets and boats.

“They’ve been so gracious these last several years letting us use the equipment,” O’Keefe said with her feet in the water of the lake Thursday. “In the past, kids are reluctant to try it, but they all hopped right in this morning.”

Once lifejackets were in place, students pushed out kayaks, row boats and paddle boats immediately, rowing out to the middle of the lake. While the water was shallow, due to the summer’s drought, students still took turns trying different types of boats.

“I think it’s an awesome activity,” Susan Robinson, parent volunteer and junior varsity tennis coach at DUHS, said. “Any time the kids are doing activities is a good thing.”

Robinson’s son, Jonathan, a senior, took the time to help a hesitant classmate into a kayak. Parent volunteer Carman Wildes said the opportunity allowed the students the chance to try something new.

“It’s amazing to see their victory when they accomplish something they were reluctant to do,” Wildes said.

O’Keefe said that with new Michigan standards in education, the class and field trip fulfilled some requirements for water safety, too.

“This was amazing, and the kids were eager to get in the water,” O’Keefe said.

Sophomore Asia Reyna took out a boat called a Ripple and said she enjoyed the chance to try her hand at boating.

“It was really fun,” Reyna said. “More students should have the opportunity to do it more often.”

Senior Ethan Dussel agreed, stating the experience was cool overall.

“It’s fun to get out and do something instead of sitting around doing the same old,” Dussel said. “We got to do something most kids don’t get to do.”

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