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Cottage Grove students go angling for fun

It was a dreary damp afternoon two days before school was out for the summer, but that didn't seem to bother these Pine Hill Elementary School fourth-graders who were trying to catch fish in the Hamlet Pond with fishing equipment they made themselves. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner1 / 3
Alicia Stoskopf has her homemade hook with her. One part of the hook, she said, would stab the fish after it was caught to keep it from getting away. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner2 / 3
Kaiah Brady (center) ponders how he would use the snail he found as bait to catch a fish. On his left is fourth-grade teacher Sue Elchert. Behind him is teacher Amber Harre and Alexix Sellwoed is on the right. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner3 / 3

It's traditional for Pine Hill Elementary School students to spend one of the last days of the school year at nearby Hamlet Park in Cottage Grove.

Last month, fourth-graders were on a mission to go fishing.

But it wasn't an ordinary trek to a pond to cast a line and reel in fish. They didn't have fishing rods, hooks or bait.

The project started, according to teacher Sue Elchert, after the students read "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.

In the book, a young boy, on his own in a forested area of New York state, has to forage for himself. He learns to be independent and rely on his ability to cope with his situation.

To get a feel of what it was like for the boy, the students, with no instructions from teachers, made fishing hooks with just the materials they could find, such as twigs and string.

On their free day at the end of the school year, students interested in trying out the hooks walked to the bridge over Hamlet Pond.

Warren Xiong's family does a lot of fishing and he was anxious to try his handmade hook. After being told fish will also eat "people" food, he walked back to the park shelter to get a bag of snacks.

Louie Kabala discovered snails in the pond and other students joined him in the search.

Without bait, kids found worms near the edge of the pond.

One student showed Elchert and teacher Amber Harre a large hook he made.

"You don't want to see what you would catch with that," Elchert joked.

That the odds were against them actually hooking and hauling in fish with grocery store string and homemade hooks didn't occur to the students.

On a cloudy, dreary day, students enjoyed laying on the bridge staring at the water, quiet time on the shore, exploring the area around the pond and sharing time with their classmates.

Not one of them complained about not catching a fish.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600