HOUSTON — On May 6, more than 100 Golbow Elementary School students will leave the classroom behind, pick up fishing poles, and learn about nature and the outdoors through hands-on experience. It’s an example of how conservation proponents statewide are trying to introduce urban youth to the outdoor environment through fishing. Mark Fobian, the elementary school P.E. coach, uses fishing as a fun gateway for his students to learn about the environment. Fobian, a certified Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Angler Education Instructor, began teaching fishing basics to his students after receiving permission from his school district and a grant from the Future Fisherman Foundation in the summer of 2004. “It’s a grant to provide P.E. teachers with equipment that they need to provide a fishing experience for their kids and to teach fishing in the classroom,” said Brenda Justice, TPWD Aquatic Education Specialist. “This is a national grant, and he’s one of two teachers in the Houston area to receive it.” The May field trip for Fobian’s fourth-grade class will be to the ranch of Herman Meyer, who allows Fobian to stock the ranch pond with fish using grant funds. In this controlled environment, the students will have the opportunity to fish, and to participate in environmental science activities such as examining aquatic insects and learning to identify which ones are present in clean or contaminated water. Kids will also make fish print T-shirts, practice casting, and talk to local game wardens. Around 60 kids at a time will fish, while the other 60 rotate through the other activities. Justice, the Houston-area Junior Angler program coordinator, said that the program’s goals match those of the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills — the education standards set by the Texas Education Agency. “Where it fits the best is in P.E. classes, because it fits with outdoor education, which worked out perfectly for Mark,” Justice said. “He teaches kids in his fourth-grade class knot tying, fish identification, basic equipment, and environmental awareness. Once he goes through all of that, he uses his field trip and takes them on a fishing day.” Fobian, whose interest in fishing was instilled at a young age by his father, saw the opportunity in his school two years ago for a fishing club, before the sport was added as part of his classroom curriculum. “I just noticed here at school there weren’t a lot of kids playing sports. I thought it would be something that we could incorporate here at school and get more kids out fishing and spending time with their families,” Fobian said. “When I wrote for this fishing grant last year, this was a situation where we had to get it into the classroom.” The $5,000 grant helped buy bait-cast rods, spin rods, fly rods and tackle, which kids can check out on the weekends for fishing with their families. “I’ve had two families come up in the last week and check out equipment to take the family fishing,” he said. The Future Fisherman Foundation, in conjunction with partner organizations such as American Sportfishing Association, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and The American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, provides many grants to schoolteachers nationwide. Three Texas schoolteachers were the recipients of grants last year, including Fobian and Sandra Sanchez, a teacher at MacArthur Elementary in La Porte. Sanchez will use grant funds for a fishing field trip to Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Learning Center for her fourth and fifth grade classes on May 4-5.