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Outdoor education thriving at Lexington


When James Clevenger grew up north of Broken Bow life was all about hunting and fishing.

Now with the assistance of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation he’s added outdoor education to his credentials as the Algebra 1 teacher at Lexington Public Schools.

It all started three years ago when he started teaching at Lexington.

A friend from those hunting and fishing days growing up reached out to clue Clevenger in on the outdoor education program he’d been running for 11 years at Battiest in southeast Oklahoma.

With the blessing of the school administration, Clevenger reached out to ODWC for the newly elective course.

Participation has grown every year and this year there are two classes in the high school and one at the junior high.

Safety is paramount and Clevenger starts each new year making sure all students have their Hunter Safety Card.

Week two is spent introducing students to the National Archery in Schools Program and all of the safety procedures in NASP.

“There are two weeks of safety before we do anything,” Clevenger said.

The ODWC introduced its Oklahoma Fishing in the Schools Program to nearly 50 schools in 2011. Participating districts number in the hundreds today. That program is an extension of the Aquatic Resource Education Program the department developed in 1988.

Under OKNASP, the emphasis is on bowhunting, bowfishing, hunter education and the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program.

The ODWC provides free Oklahoma Fishing in the Schools training to teachers. The only stipulation is districts must sign an agreement to incorporate all of the department’s Outdoor Education Programs for at least three years.

For that agreement, the school receives 25 rods and reels, tackle, hand towels, pliers, clippers, teaching posters, knot tying kit, tackle box and casting plugs.

As Lexington’s program has grown, high school history teacher Garrett Benson has been certified, taking the outdoor education program into the junior high and picking up a second class at the high school.

“If Garrett hadn’t volunteered, the program would not be where it is today,” Clevenger said.

This year the district purchased the Outdoor Adventures , incorporating it into physical education classes.

A separate training and certification is required to teach the OKNASP curriculum.

Emphasis for educators is range set up, running a safe archery range, building student skills, equipment maintenance and more.

Clevenger said since the program is an elective, students must pass all their classes at all times to participate.

“It’s leverage to improve grades,” he said.

For OKNASP, the wildlife department gave the district a dozen single cam complex bows for the high school and a dozen more when Benson started the program at the junior high.

“The only thing the district had to buy was five targets and five dozen arrows,” Clevenger said.

That’s when Academy Sports in Norman stepped up with an additional donation of hunting and fishing equipment.

This year there are 260 students in the Outdoor Education at Lexington and the district has archery and fishing teams.

In late 2021, Clevenger took 24 students to Blue River to teach them trout fishing.

The archery team competed in eight tournaments, finishing third in the state from the Central Oklahoma Tier 2 Division.

Team members are Hailey Brown, Logan Haynes, Josh Scott, Cash Vaughn, Dax Beason, Booth Vaughn, Hunter Hervey, Sadye Paul, Boston Huffert, Preston Ladusau, Izzy Pack, Frankie Daniels, Casey McShane, Matty Finley, Bailey Hamm, Brycen Franks, Skyy Loux, Morgan Cline, Chasity Chandler and Karson Klupenger.

Not only that, one archer – freshman Dax Beason – came out on top in the Tier 2 competition. He is now headed to Louisville, Ky., May 11-14 to compete in the national tournament.

Matty Finley won a custom bow and case for winning Outdoorman of the Year.

Beason also captains one of two competitive fishing teams at Lexington.

The Outdoor Education program has given Beason, all 5-foot-4 and 80 or so pounds of him, something more traditional high school sports can’t – the opportunity “to shine with anybody,” Clevenger said.

Archery practice is four days a week, plus two days after school.

“We’re teaching 60 kids a day with minimal cost to the school,” Clevenger said.

There is less emphasis, perhaps, on competitive fishing since that is an expensive undertaking the school can’t underwrite.

Still, Lexington has two teams. One consists of Dax Beason and Abby Sample and the captain is Dax’s dad, Ritchie Beason. The second team is Wyatt Woods and Wyatt McBride and the captain is Mark Woods.

Fishing tournaments require each team to have a fishing boat, an adult captain who must also pay for lodging, meals and fuel for 2- to 3-day tournaments.

Clevenger is adamant that his students don’t do fund-raising, but instead tries to get sponsors for the fishing teams.

For students without the resources for competitive fishing, Clevenger has started the Angler of the Year program, a weekly fishing contest for the kids.

The contest runs five weeks, focusing on a different fish each week. The list includes catfish, crappie, white bass, black bass and any bass.

All fish are judged by length. Once caught, the fish is photographed while being measured and is then released. Photos are submitted each week.

From one class three years ago to three classes now, Outdoor Education at Lexington has a proven track record.

Clevenger is interested to see how many classes the district can offer in 2022-23.

“We need teachers who want to be involved in outdoor education,” he said. “The number one comment I get from parents is ‘I wish they’d had this when I was in school.’”


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