NANFA-- native fishes and education

Jay DeLong (
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 10:48:51 -0800

Shireen said:
> Sponsor a school aquarium program, where you and
> a school could work in partnership to apply for a small
> education grant from a fish club, conservation group,
> or PTA.Or if you have the means, fund it yourself;
> fork out your own cash or donate one of your aquariums.
> (We're only talking about $150-$200 for a decent
> aquarium set-up.)

> Create displays to educate the kids about fish: it can be
> as simple as "identify those fish," to deeper environmental
> lessons.

> There's a real opportunity
> here to reach all sorts of kids, to teach them about caring
> responsibly for fish and extrapolating those lessons to caring
> for their environment.

These are great ideas. NANFA member Robert Carillio created a "native fish
in the schools" program with the Cleveland school system. I talked to Rob
about this a couple of months ago. He does this because he's passionate and
concerned. He puts some people off because he's quite opinionated, but he
does something special and rare-- he put his ideas into action. He had a
tropical fish business and decided to get out of the business, so de donated
a lot of tanks and supplies to the schools. He goes in periodically and
talks to classes about fishes and the need to care for them and their
environment. He gets kids to focus on the needs of fish in an aquarium then
translates those needs to what they experience in the wild (toxic
waste=toxic pollution=fish kills, why some fish don't do well in aquarium
conditions and how that translates to habitat loss in the wild, etc).

> If tank maintenance is not your forte, there are other things to
> do, like creating free software (electronic fish picturebooks,
> interactive fish quizzes, web pages). If you're an artist, spend
> time teaching them how to draw and paint aquatic life. If you
> like wading in the muck, lead field trips. If you like singing,
> make up funny songs (like The Nature Nut does!) and
> entertain the kids. Use your imagination and have fun with it.

Is the Nature Nut that TV naturalist from Canada? He's great. Another
person great for kids is Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I think the world is
ready for Shireen, the Fish Queen :-)

I read the responses by Jan, Ray, and Dave. That's really terrific stuff.
In my opinion, Dave nailed it when he said that you need to show the kids
(or adults!) that the same interesting diversity is right in their backyard.
Ray, with aquarium clubs you generally have an interested and sympathetic
audience but from my experiences they aren't too keen on action. How about
having a family native fish day when you get them and their kids (or
parents) to meet oudoors somewhere and see the killies and sunfishes you're
talking about?

Along the lines of what Jan and Dave were saying about fish ID/anatomy
lessons, when I was at Clemson University (yes, I was a bona fide Southerner
for 2 years, y'all) I caught a blue catfish and put it directly in a freezer
for an Ichthyology lab dissection the following week. In the lab, we talked
about catfish biology, and somehow the discussion came to how catfish are
regarded by many as "bottom feeders", but that the majority of their diet is
fish. When we opened the fish up we had the added bonus of a stomach-full
of food fish-- most of which were only represented by their undigested
backbones. That was cool and got a lot of oohs and ahhs. Of course these
students had an interest in this to begin, and I don't know how well this
would work with public school kids. Aquariums are a great idea because the
kids would hopefully develop an "ownership" ethic, and then translate that
to responsible environmental management.

> If anyone is interested in *doing* something, or has other ideas
> about science and environmental education, I'd love to hear from
> you. If there is enough interest, we could set up a separate listserver
> to specifically discuss practical fish and environmental education
> techniques and share ideas to make each others work more
> enriching and efficient.

This is so great. Count me in. I just don't know what I can do yet, but
you've got me thinking :-)

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA

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