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Stranger than Fiction: Middle School Gun Classes
posted by: Alix | October 31, 2011, 04:13 PM   

There are few topics more polarizing than gun control and the proper usage of hand guns, especially when children are involved. According to the National Safety Council, nearly nine children are killed daily due to firearms. While the statistics vary from year to year, the debate over gun safety and appropriate use of firearms for children, if any, rages on. Despite the heated dialogue, for students at Floyd Dryden Middle School in Juneau, Alaska, gun safety, handling and target practice is just part of the everyday curriculum during Alaska's Department of Fish & Game Hunter Education and Firearm Safety Course.

In this rural community, 90% of household own guns, making it quite the unique setting for a middle school firearms training course. After spending hours in the classroom, half a day outside and less than an hour in an indoor shooting range, the 200 sixth-graders are considered "proficient" in gun safety and survival skills.

Among the many safety and wildlife conservation components of the class, students are taught how to use a compass, navigate the forest, and several survival techniques if they are ever lost in the rural terrain. While the course encompasses lots of outdoor instruction, the gun handling portion is the most popular among the pre-teens, where they are required to shoot targets and the pros and cons of shooting techniques and positions at a local shooting range.

The course, taught by state agency volunteers, was founded by the 4-H Outdoor Skills Club and is sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. The Alaska middle school has participated in the program for over a decade, with over 4,000 middle school students participating over its history.

"It's all about safety," Ed Buyarsk, an instructor, said of the program, "and helping kids to make the right choices." While the program would be highly controversial in any other region, teachers and members of the community call the course imperative for children growing up on the frontiers of Alaska.

"Living in Southeast Alaska, they get a lot out of this program because the environment here is unforgiving," said middle school teacher Rebecca Farrell. "They need to know what's appropriate and what's not appropriate when it comes to handling guns."

While these types of classes may seem ludicrous to teachers and students living in cities or suburban communities, this outdoor training on firearms is not only beloved by students and teachers, but potentially lifesaving in such a rural area. At a time when some in Washington are considering a one-size-fits-all national curriculum, courses like these could be the perfect example of states and localities creating a curriculum that works for their students.

What do you think about the Hunter Education and Firearm Safety class? Would it work for students in your school?
Comment below.

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