Outdoor skills program gets kids out of the classroom

Students go over basic firing range safety before heading out to the range.

Everyone at the firing range wears eye protection.

Students shot from the four positions: prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.

These students had the opportunity to use air rifles.

Before heading to the “shoot/don’t shoot course,” each student donned a orange vest.

Practicing safe weapon holding positions was reinforced during the outdoor part of the program.

These students correctly identified this target as a “don’t shoot” because of the housing located just beyond the trees.

Another learning moment was the hand off of a firearm when crossing obstacles.

Students said they wouldn’t fire at this target because the animal is on top of the hill.

Students went on the “shoot/don’t shoot” course in groups of approximately a dozen.

The students evaluate a target that is located across a road.

Students went on the “shoot/don’t shoot” course in groups of approximately a dozen.

The navigation part of the program called on skills from classwork in math and geometry.

Students practice using a compass.

Earlier this week, more than 150 sixth grade students from Floyd Dryden Middle School ventured onto the firing range and woods off Montana Creek Road to test their outdoor skills.

The Outdoor Skills and Safety Program is available to all 6th grade students in Juneau.

The program is more than just firearm safety and hunter educations, says volunteer coordinator Jesse Kiehl, who has been involved with the program for 6 years.

“The benefits of this program go way way beyond firearm safety and a Hunter Ed card, so we try to get as many kids involved as possible.”

Kiehl says schools encourage participation in the program because many of the segments apply to all of life in Alaska.

Trip planning, cold water safety and survival, wildlife management, the science that’s involved in meat care, and the mathematics of land navigation are all parts of the curriculum.

“We focus at all times on firearm safety, on safety in the woods, in the field. If the kids take nothing else away from this, every one of them gets a grasp on the basic rules of firearm safety and how to be safe around a firearm. This is Alaska. The vast majority of these kids have a firearm in the home and if they don’t, there’s one in their friend’s house, or more than one. So knowing how to be safe around them is an essential skill for every Alaska kid.”

The program is volunteer driven with people from various groups involved.  It is supported by the ADF&G Hunter Education Program, the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska State Troopers and the Taku River Sportsman’s Association.