Nelson Rural School students find COVID stress relief while getting ‘schooled’ in fishing

Click to play video: 'Miramichi, NB students get “Schooled” in the sport of fishing'
Miramichi, NB students get “Schooled” in the sport of fishing
Miramichi, NB students get “Schooled” in the sport of fishing – May 21, 2021

Amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, students at a rural school in Miramichi, N.B., are reeling in some valuable life lessons.

Since Nelson Rural School is on the banks of one of the world’s best-known fishing grounds — the Miramichi River — students at the school are learning the fine art of angling and it’s helping take a bite out of pandemic stress, said their physical education teacher.

“I think it is relieving a lot of stress for them as well being outside in general and getting away from things,” said Wendy Baldwin.

The learn-to-fish classes launched at the school three years ago to coincide with the local bass fishing tournament as part of the phys-ed program, she said, adding the kids didn’t make it to the riverbank last season with schools closed due to COVID-19.

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The program was cast-off again this spring and is proving to help some kids tackle their pandemic fears, said Baldwin.

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“When we are over here fishing they forget about everything else for at least an hour.”

Baldwin said that that much of the fishing gear was purchased from the school and district budgets, but some gear was donated from the community.

She said given COVID-19 restrictions in the classroom, getting the kids outside and away from their electronic devices is her priority, while also teaching them some life skills.

“My whole phys-ed program this year has been based on being outside,” she said.

Grade 5 student Emma Cuthbert said she enjoys casting off on the dock just across the street from the school.

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“It is really fun to catch a fish and look at it. The last time we caught a salmon,” she said.

Thirteen-year-old Jayden Harris said he grew up with a rod in hand and he tends to the gear and offers students some pointers.

“I pinch the barbs on all the lures and realign the rods and put them on,” said Harris.

Grade 5 student Brooke Lynch, 11, said being outside is indeed a welcome distraction, “because we have to wear our masks in the halls and we can just take them off out here.”

Baldwin said that many of the students feel a sense of accomplishment when they’re able to get a bite.

“To see the look on their face when they are reeling in a fish — I don’t know who gets more excited, them or me!”

The students will take part in the learn-to-fish classes for the next few weeks.

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