PRAIRIE GROVE — Aaron Garlett showed up and enrolled at Lincoln just in time to experience an unprecedented opportunity to go fishing with his new classmates on Prairie Grove’s Bob Kidd Lake.
The eighth-graders were part of the last group on Monday, May 24, receiving credit for coming to school, then taking a bus out to the lake to join P.E. & Health teacher Justin Bounds for an outdoor excursion.
“I came here at the perfect time and I’ve only been here a week,” Aaron said.
Aaron and his family recently relocated from Ellen-ville, N.Y., a small town about 90 miles northwest of downtown Manhattan in New York City. He is originally from Texas, but spent the last two years in New York.
“I love fishing, I’m used to the country,” Aaron said. “Down here is more like home.”
The relocation went smoothly. Aaron’s biggest problem was his kittens didn’t like traveling. They clawed and bit him.
Isaiah Whitlock, now in his second year at Lincoln, transferred from Pangburn and can hardly contain his excitement about the world of opportunities Lincoln affords its students when they enter high school.
“You can join clubs and stuff and there’s different after school activities,” Isaiah said.
Isaiah plans to graduate early and has a road map planned out to achieve that objective. He can take pre-AP English as a freshman and enroll in college level courses as a junior. He won a $25 prize from the Gifted and Talented Shark Tank, a monetary incentive he notes didn’t exist at his old school.
He competed as part of the chess team before covid halted those events and hopes Mr. Billingsley returns next year and the club can resume competition. One of his personal highlights was going up against the Arkansas grand master in one of the tournaments held at the Don Tyson School of Innovation.
“I’m not really an active sort of guy, but it’s been fun,” he said of the chance to get out of class and enjoy the outdoors.
That was the general consensus among the entire eighth grade class even though they weren’t exactly reeling them in while fishing from the bank.
“Just sticks, sticks, and more agony, got to be patient,” said Lane Byron. “It’s better than being in class 7 to 8 hours a day.”
Kelsey Longwith agreed, “It’s better than going to school,” while Juliet Martinez thought fishing helped break up the monotony of what by the end of the school year can seem like endless hours of classroom instruction.
Bounds has been teaching fishing ever since Spring Break while planning for a Fishing Derby Day, which had to be rescheduled from Friday, May 21, due to rain.
Brayden Brown appreciated the fact the school allowed the students to demonstrate personal responsibility while scheduling field trips.
“This is the first time they’ve allowed us to have fishing poles on the bus,” Brayden said, while noting earlier in the week students went to Fayetteville and Springdale on a biking trip.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission stocked the lake with 500 one-pound catfish a week prior to Lincoln’s Fishing Derby through a program called FINS, Fishing in the Natural State.
Gina McClellan, the District’s ESL/Literacy (English as a Second Language) K-12 Coordinator, said Lincoln students are fortunate to have visionary teachers like Bounds, who planned the Fishing Derby and handled all of the logistics from borrowing the school’s canoes to arranging for local donations that included a pair of portable outhouses on-site courtesy of White River Environmental Services, bottled water from Lincoln’s Dollar General, and worms from Farmer’s Co-op in Lincoln.
“Our kids are pretty lucky to have teachers like Justin and our school nurse [Sarah Reed], and our coaches, all of them who came out here to give them [fishing] tips,” Gina McClellan said.
Harps in Lincoln donated a $100 gift card which, according to Bounds, supplied hot dogs for bait, bottled water and zip bags for bait among other things.
The American Drive-In donated gift certificates for ice cream cones, which were one of the prizes from the casting accuracy competition.
“Whoever cast it into the target got to pick a prize out of the bag,” Bounds said.
High school principal Stan Karber wrote a grant to purchase the canoes several years ago and students made good use out of a chance to get out onto the lake.
Brayden Brown, Lane Bryon, Brent Bynum, Diego Hernandez and Michael Martinez each took a canoe out individually while McKenna Doyle and Makayla Quinn worked a canoe in tandem.
“I hadn’t been canoeing in a long time so I was a little freaked out, but I just rowed and rowed and rowed until I felt calm,” Michael Martinez said. “It feels amazing, heck, it’s our last week [of school] so we might as well enjoy it.”
Michael Hensley has fished Bob Kidd Lake many times and always liked the experience.
“The bank fishing is not so promising, though, it never has been,” Michael Hensley said. “You usually want to come here [to fish] on a boat.”
“Between the wind and the current you really couldn’t keep a bobber in a good spot,” said Isaiah Whitlock, who jumped at his first chance to fish in about three years.
“Bob Kidd Lake doesn’t have a lot of fish, especially off the shore. It just depends on the day,” Brayden said.
He was using hot dogs for bait.
“It’s pretty cool that they’re letting us do this,” said Lucas Wilson, who used a rooster tail as his bait.
Earlier in the day, fifth-grader Naly Xiong caught a perch, creating a stir among her schoolmates, who congratulated her.
“She was excited. It was right before they left,” said Gina McClellan.
Her son, fifth-grader Blayne McClellan, wanted to go swimming. He opted for the next best thing by wading out hip deep to pull canoes out of the water.
“It’s been a good, fun day. I had to get my kid out of the water,” Gina McClellan said. “He was super happy.”
Caden Brewer fishes a lot and brought his own gear.
“It seemed like a pretty fun idea. I had a good time,” Caden said.
The Fishing Derby began at 8:30 a.m. and continued until 2:30 p.m. under almost ideal conditions. Cloud cover helped students and staff avoid sunburns and kept the temperature cool.
“Every middle school teacher was out here,” Bounds said.
He didn’t have a count on the number of volunteers and parents who showed up to help.
“The fourth- and fifth-grade parents showed up in droves. They were everywhere, which was great,” Bounds said. “That’s what the whole purpose was, to get out here and try to catch some fish. We weren’t very successful, but it’s called fishing, not catching.”
Bounds was also teaching conservation.
“We’re going to leave it cleaner than what we found it,” he said.
Michael Martinez was the last kid off the lake.
Next year Bounds intends to form a Fishing Derby Day committee so staff can plan the event together.
“Today worked out really well, not too hot, not too cool, not too sunny. We’re not leaving with sunburns and I think everybody left with a good attitude as well even though there were only a few fish caught,” Bounds said. “There were no injuries, very few snakes were reported, and no mishaps.”
Mark Humphrey can be reached at [email protected] .