By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Ten-year-old Toia Reid squealed and shied away from the tiny bluegill she had just fished out of Belton Lake on Friday morning.
Though she proudly walked down the marina pier at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area on Fort Hood to show the catch to her teacher, Teresa Washko, Toia refused to touch it.
"It's gross!" she exclaimed, wrinkling her nose as Washko tried to get her to pick up the small fish.
By 11 a.m., the fourth-grade girl was the only successful fisherman out of dozens of Sugar Loaf Elementary School students. Nonetheless, the fourth-graders, their parents and teachers were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the lake after a week of stressful testing.
"We get a day off, and TAKS is over. We look forward to it every year – I look forward to it," said Angel Cotto, Sugarloaf's computer lab technician.
Cotto said it's a day where nobody fusses or fights with each other, and everyone just relaxes and bonds.
It is also a day for some hands-on educational learning, Washko said.
"It's a culminating activity for our measurement unit that we've been doing for the past nine weeks," Washko said. "When they catch a fish, they have to weigh it in metric and standard, measure its length and identify it."
Washko started the fourth-grade "fishing derby" excursion 18 years ago when she first started teaching at Sugarloaf. She said some of the children hadn't fished before, so it was a great opportunity for them to learn something new while having a good time.
Reginae Stallworth was one of those newbie fishermen, and she immediately took to the sport. With a concentrated look on her face, she carefully arranged her bobber, hook and worm on the line before casting and patiently waiting.
"It's kind of hard, a little. But it's kind of fun when you throw the line out," she said. "I almost caught one, but it ran and took the worm."
Other students were obviously experienced. These were the ones who reclined in folding chairs and casually held their poles, all the while yelling out, "Be patient!" to their friends. One such fourth-grader, Wade Corn, was joined by his parents at the event.
His father, Alan Corn, even managed to get time off from his three jobs in order to attend the derby. Corn said the derby was a great idea, and that, "Wade loves" Washko because of the hands-on teaching she uses.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7464