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MN considers firearms safety, hunting skills, more for schools’ phys ed program

Kids on phones (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/WikiCommons)
March 29, 2019

Firearms safety, hunting, trap shooting, archery, and fishing could be added to Minnesota public schools’ physical education classes in a new bill state lawmakers are considering.

The proposed bill, SF 793, would add the outdoor activities to schools’ physical education classes in an attempt to expand the scope of classes and get kids away from television and video games, according to Kare 11.

If approved, the bill would establish a pilot program with the Dept. of Natural Resources providing the curriculum and other resources to six schools across the state.

The bill was proposed by State Sen. Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids who introduced it in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

“We’re trying to help get our Minnesota kids away from the TV and get them out in the woods and on the water again to get them hooked on the outdoors and hooked on fishing,” he told the committee, according to 4WWL News. “We want to start bending that curve to get children to care about the outdoors and the history of and heritage of hunting and fishing in Minnesota.”

SF 793 would cost $1 million over the 2020-2021 two-year budget cycle. The bill specifies that tribal schools could apply for the grant, which would be developed by the DNR Commissioner after consulting with Minnesota’s Native American communities.

Kevin Murphy, a sixth-grade teacher at Northland Community Schools in Grand Rapids, told the Senate Education Committee that his school already has a similar program that teaches safety classes on firearms, snowmobiles, ATVs, boats, as well as general water safety and fishing.

Murphy said, “That is huge in local culture, the firearms safety part of it, the hunting aspect of it, the outdoor education is all very, very important as a cultural element.”

He added that 45 percent of his district’s enrollment is part of Minnesota’s Native population.

The bill is the latest in local governments’ effort to promote physical activity given the rise of video gaming.

CBS News reported in December that the National Institutes of Health was launching a study to discover how excessive screen time impacts the physical structure of kids’ brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. The multiyear study will follow more than 11,000 nine and 10-year-olds for 10 years in this $300 million study.

Initial MRIs from 4,500 of the children did find brain changes in kids that use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. The study also discovered that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens yielded lower scores on thinking and language tests.