February 1, 2024

IDNR Urban Fishing Instruction in the Classroom Expands in 2024 with Bussing Grants

Photos by Van Grissom.

The Illinois Urban Fishing Program is gearing up for another season of fun-filled programs and fishing with schools across the state. The 2024 year brings an exciting new twist to this program. While Urban Fishing programs have always been available at no cost to Illinois schools, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is excited to announce that, for the first time ever, grant money is now available to cover the cost of transportation to fishing locations.

Indoor/Classroom Urban Fishing Sessions

The Urban Fishing program uses classroom-based and experiential learning opportunities to teach students about fishing and aquatic science. The Indoor/Classroom session offers students the chance to learn about fish and aquatic habitats, and to pick up some fishy fun facts. Aquatic organisms can often be brought into the classroom as an exciting and engaging teaching aid.

Connecting students to the aquatic environments of the area, the needs of native fish and responsible fishing practices further adds to the classroom experience.

These programs can assist with meeting classroom Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These are the standards that educators must teach in their curriculum. There classroom sessions (not involving fishing) are not eligible for the grant.

Outdoor Urban Fishing Sessions

The Outdoor/Fishing session takes place at nearby waterbodies (ponds, lakes, streams) where students apply what they learned in the classroom by going fishing. Using information from the indoor session, such as aquatic ecosystems, fish behavior and fishing tactics, students can participate in hands-on angling to learn more about fish and their habitats.

Under the guidance of urban fishing instructors, students can safely experience and explore these aquatic ecosystems. IDNR works throughout the state to maintain and stock locations that are accessible, safe and enjoyable for a fantastic fishing experience. Basic fishing and water safety rules are also addressed. Fishing equipment, bait and instruction will provide an opportunity for students to hone fishing skills, develop an appreciation for aquatic resources and even land their first fish.

Participating in IDNR Urban Fishing Sessions

Teachers should contact their regional program coordinator (list below) to set up a time and location for the indoor and outdoor sessions. The IDNR coordinator can work with the teacher on scheduling, identifying appropriate angling locations and classroom topics that align or assist with ongoing curriculum or topics.

The grant covers bus transportation up to $500 per teacher with a limit of $1,000 per trip. Other fees, such as substitute teacher expenses, can be covered. All applications are online and easy to do. Teachers will have to complete a short final report and upload receipts. The IDNR program coordinator will provide participating teachers with a link to reimburse the school with qualifying costs for their field trip.

The IDNR Urban Fishing Program helps students learn about the fish in Illinois waters and an opportunity to learn in an outdoor setting. A spark might be lighted for a lifelong passion of being outdoors. The Urban Fishing Biodiversity Field Trip Grant makes it possible for students to participate in an activity they might not otherwise get the opportunity to do.

Urban Fishing Coordinator Jonathan Schlesinger summed up the opportunity by saying “Fishing is a great way for Illinois students to take a screen break and reap all of the emotional benefits that come with spending time in nature.”

For additional information on the IDNR ENTICE (Environment and Nature Training Institute for Conservation Education) program, visit https://dnr.illinois.gov/education/entice.html.

Additional information on the IDNR Urban Fishing Program is available at I Fish Illinois https://ifishillinois.org/programs/Urban_Fishing.html.

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