A group of Valley High School students will get closer with nature as they take part in "Outdoor Odyssey" from May 9-11.
This trip, named by VHS's PRO Donald Bordenkircher, will take place at Pocahontas County's 4-H grounds.
A whole list of events are planned by the staff involved with the club, whom includes Kristi Earley, Tara Byard, Joshua Weekley, Aaron Allen, Annie Hall, Jeremy Kelch, and Bordenkircher. The club, which has been a part of the school for four to five years, was originally formed by Bordenkircher and Earley, who states that the PRO officer approached her after talking to students during lunch.
Valley High School students are preparing these trout for release.
Earley stated that Bordenkircher expressed concerns about keeping kids engaged at school and had some ideas as to how to rectify the situation. "I like to hunt," Earley states. "Donald likes to hunt and shoot rifles and pistol," she adds.
"The club has blossomed since its beginning." VHS's Sportsman's Club has paired up with Pine Grove's Sportsman's Club for 3D archery shoots in the summer. The club also participates in Adopt A Highway, pond cleaning, and Trout In The Classroom, a project completed by Allen's environmental earth class.
Last year was the first for releasing the trout. Weekley, Byard, and Allen took eight students to Pocahontas County and released the trout while staying in tents. Earley states that Allen approached her after returning and asked if there was any way that the Sportsman's Club could help with cost and possibly make it a weekend trip.
"I started calling some friends at WVU and the DNR for possible workshops and suggestions and Bordy (Donald Bordenkircher) and Kelch also made some calls . . . the rest just fell in place," said Earley.
Weekley adds that the trout released last year by VHS were some of the largest of the state.
Events for this year's trip include guided fly fishing by Bubba Holtz, the dean of the West Virginia Fly Fishing School. Earley personally hopes to learn how to fly fish during this year's trip.
Students also get to participate in dutch-oven cooking, skeet shooting, nature/landscaping painting, firearm safety, canoeing, ecology studies, chainsaw carving, endangered species seminar, and nature hike by the West Virginia DNR, 3D archery, air rifles, wood carving, fly tying, a visit to the Green Bank observatory, paintball competitions, the release of fingerling trout that have been raised by Valley High School environmental students, campfire sing-alongs and ghost story telling.
Furthermore, "Outdoory Odyssey" tee-shirts, designed by Bordenkircher, will be given to each camper on the last day of the trip.
Earley stated that the school appreciates donations for their campers as some students lack proper materials such as sleeping bags, rods, and reels. The trip is at no cost to the students; club money and donations are used to pay fees to get into Green Bank Conservatory and purchase fishing licenses.
Club advisors give immense credit to Bud Forte, Cabela's events coordinator, who has offered support to the club. Cabela's has been with the Sportsman's Club since its implementation and is helping out with their spring trip by donating the dutch ovens that will be used, other camping supplies, and discounts on other materials.
Furthermore, Earley expresses gratitude to Doug's Trading Post, which has also been supportive of the club since its creation and has donated fishing supplies for the trip. She states that she is also grateful for Rick Barr of Martin's Hardware, who is also helping out by donating fishing tackle for the trip for the students who need it.
The Michael McGuane Foundation has helped fund the club's endeavors from its beginning.
Prizes will be given out to campers for the biggest fish, scavenger hunt, skeet shooting and archery, best story telling, and camper of the weekend. An award will also be given to the "Camper of the Week"-who can be a boy or a girl, upperclassman or lowerclassman. This award will be based on enthusiasm, sportsmanship, participation, passion for learning about the outdoors, and exemplifies good stewardship of the land.
The fun of the Sportsman's Club obviously does not just begin with the trip. For example, a turkey calling contest will be held today, 1 p.m., at VHS. Ten students from VHS will be participating, as well as some students from Hundred. Robbie Gilbert, Rich Harr, and Dan Kelch will be judging the contest, and prizes will be given for the top five individuals.
The school hopes to make the event a sanctioned yearly event.
VHS teacher Kelch, an avid hunter and fisherman, is looking forward to using his ties to "Game On" television while on the trip. One lucky camper will be able to go on a turkey hunt with Kelch and Robby Gilbert of "Game On". Kelch states that this hunt will be televised. He will take the club member who has helped and participated the most in the sportsman's club archery shoots and other club activities to hunt on his home property Friday morning before leaving for the trip. If that student doesn't get a turkey then, he will also take him hunting at Pocahontas County while they are there. If that student gets a turkey Friday morning, Kelch will take the second most helpful student.
Byard is looking forward to canoeing with the campers, as she states that there is a reservoir close to where the camp is.
"We are trying to target kids who struggle in school," Byard states, adding, "and give them a part." Byard expresses further enthusiasm as to the trip to the Green Bank Observatory. "Some kids have never gotten to go to that observatory," she states.
Despite the growth of the Sportsman's Club, Earley, Bordenkircher, Kelch, and the other advisors focus on the main goal: to target at-risk students and to keep students engaged at school.
Surprisingly, some students do not understand why their teachers are investing so much time into the trip and into them, the students. "We learn as much from the students as they do from us," Kelch confidently states.
Furthermore, while Kelch is generally on good terms with his students, he stated that he is excited to see how kids react to the teachers out of the school environment. Earley and Kelch both are excited to see what different students will excel at on the trip.
For instance, understandably, some students succeed at academics and others succeed at athletics. However, Earley and Kelch stress that each student possesses a different skill set and, furthermore, they spoke of the possibility of the trip bringing out these skills in students, whether it be the student who turns out to be an avid fisherman or the student who expresses enthusiasm over canoeing. Kelch adds that he always tells his students that they will get along with him as long as they work their hardest. "We are finding their talents," he states. "We look at work ethic."