Tippecanoe School Corporation
Jenny Garriott

The sun was fighting the clouds and the air was cold and windy when recess began, but Levi, Johnathan, Conner, and Tyson were undeterred. They had their fishing poles and an adult who would accompany them to the Cole Outdoor  Education Center. They had one thing in mind - fishing. Carrying small styrofoam containers of nightcrawlers, these fifth grade students headed out the door with excitement. Tetherball and kickball could wait - they had a chance to fish.

A three-acre outdoor education center sits on the grounds of James Cole Elementary School. The Cole Outdoor Education Center features a one-acre wetland, a 5/8 mile walking path, a roofed shelter space with picnic tables, a bat house, a windmill, and an amphitheater that can hold an entire grade level of students, and a one-acre pond. The teachers in the school have a curriculum established that offers unique learning opportunities for students at each grade level. Each grade level also has two main focuses - every child can identify the milkweed plant which is the main food source for the Monarch caterpillar and can identify poison ivy. Each grade level holds pond days during the school year which often include fishing. 

The Cole Pond is home to bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, and shiners. The bluegill are plentiful and always hungry so students have many chances to find success. Many of the students have never fished before coming to school. While the branches over the pond contain fishing string and bobbers, evidence of misfired casting, the experience offered makes those snags and setbacks worth the frustration.

James Cole Elementary School has benefited from several grants-in-aid sponsored by Keep Stockwell Beautiful. This organization also assists with Pond Day.  And when the stars align and the principal or another teacher can get away during recess, students can also fish as both a reward and just for pleasure. Memories built one cast at a time.