The greatest challenge facing the outdoors industry is youth participation.
Finding a way to get young people to engage in fishing, hunting and other outdoors activities-especially in light of changing demographics and increasing fixation on electronic media is something we all must contend with at some level.
That is if we want our industry to have a future.
Texas Fish & Game has been quietly conducting a program that addresses this issue in a proactive way and has been doing so for nearly a generation.
“Since 1990, we have provided classroom subscription programs to teachers of a very special course taught in agriculture departments in Texas high schools. The course—Wildlife, Fisheries, and Ecology Management—started with a bang, almost instantly becoming one of the most popular classes in Ag Science history. Thanks in part to the class also including the mandatory hunter safety certification, it also attracted thousands of non-ag students,” said TF&G Publisher Roy Neves
“At first, teachers used Texas Fish & Game issues as a primary teaching source because they simply had no text books for the new class. As the program evolved, our issues continued to provide them with supplemental material and as a sure-fire method to engage student interest in special projects,” he added.
Neves said now that TF&G digital editions provide a wealth of features not possible in print—such as videos, slide shows and other interactive tools—its issues have become even more useful to teachers.
“An increasing number of schools now provide students with tablets or individual computer access. In the schools that don’t, almost every kid has a smart phone. This technology, and our long-standing partnership with teachers, gives us a powerful connection to tens of thousands of students. This year, we will reach more than 40,000 students in 600 Texas high schools,” he said.
On top of that the digital platform has allowed the very thing that distracts many young people (electronic devices) to be used to inspire them about all things outdoors.
In addition for the last five years TF&G has sent out a weekly e-newsletter to teachers in the program.
Teachers frequently use the material for extra credit and also use as a supplement to already planned lessons in the classroom. This impacts thousands of students weekly and gives free aid to teachers strapped for time and budgets for extra educational materials which tend to be quit costly.
There is no way to accurately gauge the impact of this program but feedback from teachers as well as present and past students show it has helped keep young people excited about the outdoors and taught them the value of wildlife conservation in the Lone Star State and beyond.