The Oklahoma Wildlife Commission has heard a presentation on the Wildlife Department’s new scholastic shooting sports program, which is being added to a suite of other outdoor education programs currently offered to schools by the Department. Through the program, educators and instructors at certain schools and FFA organizations will be trained and certified by the Wildlife Department’s Shotgun Training and Education Program (STEP) to implement the program in their schools. Students who receive the training will have the opportunity to learn safe gun handling as well as recreational and competitive shotgun shooting.

The shooting sports program will initially be piloted in 20 pre-selected schools that already participate in either FFA shooting sports or the Department’s outdoor education suite, which includes the Archery in the Schools, Hunter Education, Explore Bowhunting and Fishing in the Schools programs.

Participating schools will receive a grant to help purchase equipment for the program, thanks to a partnership with the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International, which donated $20,000 to kick off the pilot program.

“Through this program we are hoping to build camaraderie like students would in any other school sport, as well as build outdoor skills and foster appreciation for the outdoors in our youth,” said Damon Springer, STEP coordinator for the Wildlife Department.

According to Springer, another goal of the program will be continuing to provide support for the FFA sporting clays program.

Early surveys of educators involved in the Department’s outdoor education programs indicate interest in the scholastic shooting sports program is high among schools, and the Department plans to expand the program after the pilot year.

The Department’s other education programs have enjoyed significant growth and expansion into schools in recent years, such as the Archery in the Schools Program which has grown over a 10-year period from its original 10 pilot schools to about 400 schools across the state that participate today. The Hunter Education program, which has educated tens of thousands of sportsmen over the years and is credited for a reduction in hunting-related accidents in recent decades, has been and continues to be used widely as in-class curriculum in Oklahoma schools, and the Explore Bowhunting program builds on the Archery in the Schools program by focusing on the hunting aspect of the sport of archery. Also, the Fishing in the Schools program implements the Wildlife Department Aquatic Resource Education program to teach students in schools about fishing for recreation and conservation.

To learn more about how educators and schools can become involved with the Wildlife Department’s outdoor education suite, contact Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, at (918) 299-2334.

Logo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

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