When John Doumit, an ag teacher in Washington state, teamed up with Bud Mickelsen, a master fishing rod builder with 50-plus years of experience to teach rod building in his forestry and natural resources class, he knew he had a great concept on his hands.
In fact, that first class was such a success that Doumit, now retired, and Mickelson have put on rod-building workshops for ag teachers in Washington for the last five years. The results from even the very first teachers’ workshop paralleled those of Doumit’s, and soon the two built a reputation as having a program that both captured the interest of students and served as great vehicle to deliver all types of learning.
For Doumit, learning to build a fishing rod is an important part of the teacher workshops, but the real goal is to help teachers become more effective and successful in their programs.
“The current statistics tell us that we are losing a lot of our young teachers at between 5 and 8 years after they start teaching,” he said. “My theory is that they leave because they haven’t been successful or seen their students really excited about learning. If in some small way we can help them experience success with students and feel good about their profession we all win.”
“When I first implemented the rod building curriculum into my Agricultural Education Program, enrollment in my Forestry classes was less than 10 students. After I started building rods in the class, enrollment jumped to 25 students per year,” said Jono Esvelt, ag teacher at Kettle Falls high school in Kettle Falls, Washington.
Doumit noted that students participating in the rod building program generally are highly motivated, have fun, take responsibility for their own learning and turn out a quality, useful product. In addition, rod building lends itself to SAE programs, chapter fundraising, and community development activities.
Rod building is also great for working with teachers across subject areas. It has been successfully taught in conjunction with math, science, and art programs, and could easily be paired with others, such as physical education, history, special education, or even mentoring programs.
Jeff Rooklidge, Science and Math teacher at Wahkiakum high school said, “This curriculum was a highlight for students in my environmental science and math classes this past year. It challenged them to think across curriculum lines and apply math/physics principles to produce a product they are proud of. This program provides an interactive learning experience that asks students to design strategies for solving problems and elicits dialog between fellow students and teachers that is critical for learning.”
In a quest to make this program available to a wider audience, Doumit and Mickelsen have teamed up with Batson Enterprises, the largest wholesale distributor of fishing rod blanks and building components in the United States in the creation of Batson U, a program that teaches students the art and science of building custom fishing rods.
Batson has developed classroom kits including all the supplies, materials, and dryers needed for a typical ag class, and Doumit and Mickelsen are available for teacher workshops to train teachers on effectively incorporating rod building in their programs.
“There is a big difference in rod building as an individual or small group project versus conducting a class of 10 or more,” said Doumit. “Our 6 years of experience have made the learning curve a little smaller. I am confident that if we can help teachers do a good job with this project it can be one of the very best units of instruction in their portfolio and a model for future successes.”