Teacher Andy Kruger lends some angling advice to Annie Ennesser. She was one of two students to successfully hook a carp that morning. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)
Teacher Andy Kruger lends some angling advice to Annie Ennesser. She was one of two students to successfully hook a carp that morning. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Archived Story

Dowagiac high school lifestyle class promotes healthy living

Published 8:00am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Andy Kruger’s healthy lifestyles class isn’t like the other courses offered at Dowagiac Union High School.

After all, one of the extra credit opportunities involves digging around in the dirt to help the instructor look for nightcrawlers after sunset.

Last week, Kruger and around 20 of his students grabbed some bait and fishing poles and headed down to James Heddon Park for a morning of angling. The students divided themselves into teams in a competition to catch the largest carp in a four-hour period. By 1:30 p.m., two students had each caught themselves a three-pound carp, though plenty of blue gills and bass found their way onto hooks.

While bragging rights were up for grabs, the activity was less about the teenagers putting up a display of casting glory and more about giving them something many of their peers lack — a taste of the adventure that can be found outside a digital display.

“[Today] is about some fun outside,” Kruger said. “It’s about having young people getting off their cell phones to hang out with each other.”

This is the first year that Kruger has taken his instruction outside the confines of the high school since taking the class over last year, he said. The theme of his course has been to encourage his students to “unplug,” to pull their attention away from isolated activities on the computer and smartphone and focus it toward group activities outside.

“I’m a fisherman myself, so I’ve thought this would be a good way to get students more involved in the outdoors,” Kruger said. “It’s kept the students interested in class during the last few weeks of school.”

The teens spent a number of weeks preparing for the excursion, Kruger said. In addition to studying in class about the fish, each team was responsible for researching bait recipes, which they used to create a unique concoction for the competition.

“They used things like strawberry jelly, peanuts, vanilla extract, all sorts of crazy stuff,” Kruger said.

One of the students who caught a carp that morning was sophomore Annie Ennesser. While it wasn’t her first time fishing at Heddon Park, she had never done so with a group of classmates before.

“It’s good for us to do something besides sitting inside on our phones,” Ennesser said. “I like this. I think we should do this more often.”

After the success of last week’s field trip, Kruger said he would like to continue to bring future classes out to the park for a day of fishing on the mill pond.

“I think Mr. Heddon would have been impressed to see us still getting our kids outside,” Kruger said.

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