It’s Good To Get It In Writing

Whether the subject is good writing or good fishing, attention to detail spells success.

That’s why teachers at Spokane’s Discovery School make sure every grade-school student packs a journal along on the annual year-end campout.

That’s why expert flyfisher Clay Findlay keeps a log of every fishing trip.

Details drop out of your mind as insidiously as hair off your head. You don’t miss them until you want to go somewhere.

The brain is a leaky reservoir of details. But this mental shortcoming is simple to fix with a bit of discipline and two simple tools. A pen and a notebook.

No library can match Findlay for his storehouse of facts on fly fishing the region’s lakes and streams.

Findlay is one of the finest flyfishers around. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that he is also the most inquisitive. The simple but uncommon habit of logging information from fishing trips has built Findlay’s notebooks into a resource other anglers would sell children to acquire.

“The most important information to record is the date, place, water temperature, weather, bugs observed, fly patterns that caught fish, something about the number and size of fish caught and anything unusual I notice,” Findlay said.

In a separate card file, he saves phone numbers of “You can’t remember all that stuff,” he said, which isn’t surprising coming from an angler who fished more than 200 days last year.

“The log really pays off when the fishing is kind of blah. I flip back to see what was hot a year or two ago and I’m reminded. Maybe I should head to the Clark Fork, and I’ll have a good idea of what fly patterns to bring.”

Mary Haberman, Discovery school’s third-grade teacher, learned the value of journalizing from her grandfather. A laborer by trade, he kept a daily journal that has become an heirloom and history of the family farm.

Discovery students journalize year-round. But the virtues are particularly vivid in the special journals they keep during their year-end challenge.

For kindergartners and first-graders, the challenge is surviving an overnighter at the school without mom. Second-graders test their mettle on a Centennial Trail expedition.

Still one year away from the dream trip fifth- and sixth-graders take to Orcas Island, my daughter, Brook, joined the third- and fourth-graders on a campout at Liberty Lake.

These students aren’t sentenced to camping because they’re incorrigible. Under the enthusiastic supervision of teachers, the outdoors serves as an unbeatable classroom.

“We let the kids find a challenge that tests them in new situations, problem solving and awareness,” said Discovery’s librarian Lorna Kropp.

“The personal challenges start with putting up the tents by themselves, then sleeping in a tent away from their family, cooking portions of their own meals and keeping track of their own stuff for 24 hours.”

Just as important are the lessons in curiosity.

“The journal is vital,” Haberman said. “Kids can be themselves with a journal. They can get all their thoughts down.”

I noticed that Brook did some thinking for herself after listening to Air Force survival experts discuss what to bring in a pack. Water purifier and cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly are sound suggestions from the military manuals.

But the M&M;’s have the ring of a fourth-grader’s variation.

Brook’s journal is filled with knot diagrams and illustrations, including one of lupine, the “favorite plant” she spotted at the park. She documented seeing red-winged blackbirds by the marsh.

A page is devoted to her favorite camp-cooking recipes. Most agreeable is an orange, cut in half from stem to stem. The fruit is scooped out and eaten, leaving two cupshaped peels intact to fill with blueberry muffin mix.

They bake beautifully on hot campfire coals, she said.

At home, Brook read me the few notes she’d made about an experiment gone awry. The notes were enough to unleash her memory and launch an animated description of the two raccoons that ate the seed samples set out to determine the preferences of birds.

I wondered how many great camp lessons I’ve misplaced in my mind because they weren’t jotted down in a journal.

“At the start of the outing every child is asked to find a special spot,” Haberman said. “It might be in a tree, under a blanket or by a stream.”

After each lesson - whether it be a stroll through the forest with magnifying glasses, learning to start a campfire, or sorting through the bugs in a marsh - the kids dash to their special spots to reflect.

“They sit, listen, touch, smell, feel - and journal,” Haberman said, noting that Discovery teachers don’t necessarily have to assign kids to write in their journals anymore.

“A lot of these kids journal with words or illustrations just for fun,” she said. “It’s another needle into writing.”

And perhaps the fertile foundation for a few expert anglers.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

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