The collections manager here (Bernie Kuhajda) has a GREAT presentation that
he does for school groups. It consists almost entirely of preserved material
that gets dried off and passed around. We also maintain a bunch of cool
preserved fish that teachers can borrow for class demos and instructional
purposes. It's always a big hit.
The emphasis is on the diversity of fishes, so we pass around things like
madtoms, pirahnas, moray eels, gar, sawfish, paddlefish, etc. and talk about
how different fish eat, where they live, what they do, etc., the kids get
exposed to a good cross-section of the morphological diversity out there.
When you explain that some of these things occur right in their backyard,
you'll have their attention. Guaranteed.
Jan's tips are right on the money... but if you include any elasmobranchs,
be sure they're females. The first time I filled in for Bernie, the angel
shark I pulled out of the tank happened to be a particularly well-endowed
male, and wouldn't you know it, three kids started pointing at the claspers
and asking "Ooh,what are those!"
The answer that "it's part of the fin" didn't quite cut it, especially when
their teachers started to giggle... The next thing I had laid out was a big
male ratfish - I should have known (100% hindight), but the first question
they asked was why it had teeth on the top of it's head...
Oh, and for the really squeamish kids, we've got the cure-all... a smooth
lumpsucker that for all purposes looks like 'Slimer' from the movie
'Ghostbusters.' The ones that had shrieked the loudest just sit there in awe
when THAT gets passed around... But it's all in fun- they go away having
learned a bit, and you go away knowing you might have just made one more
There's a TON of fish collections out there- and most of them will be
happy to lend you specimens for instructional purposes if you ask nicely. If
you are interested in such a program, let me know.
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