RE: NANFA-- bleak news for fish lovers

Shireen Gonzaga (
Wed, 01 Dec 1999 16:04:19 -0500

> From: "Jay DeLong" <>
> What do you think NANFA should do as an organization?
> NANFA is a small organization and these issues are very
> complex. Outside of NANFA, I think we need to instill a
> scientifically-based environmental ethic in our children.
> Start at home, take it to the schools, and support
> environmental organizations everywhere.

A suggestion. Take a local school under your wing.

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.)

But don't stop there. Maintain the tank for the school.
Talk to kids when they come up to find out what you're
doing. Put the word out to teachers that you're a resource
for fish information. Collect fun stuff, like posters,
buttons, collecting cards, books, website links, etc. for
the librarian and teachers.

Create displays to educate the kids about fish: it can be
as simple as "identify those fish," to deeper environmental
lessons. Make up occasional handouts with amazing fish
facts. Have fish drawing/painting/sculpting competitions.
Use your imagination. It's fun.

Very often, when we wonder aloud "what can I do?" it
becomes so overwhelming that we back off. The problem
is enormous. But to truly make a change, it has to be done
at a grassroots level and we need to support each other.
It takes one person to infect others, and that's how the
awareness spreads. But you're probably thinking, "where
will I find the time?" Good question. There are so many
demands on our time that we're lucky if we get a good
nights sleep.

In reality, adopting a school isn't that much work. Here's
how I did it for my neighborhood elementary school.
I took a day off from work and spent the entire day buying
supplies to refurbish their old set-up, started from scratch
setting-up the aquarium, and briefed the librarian on basic
day-to-day maintenance like feeding, algae control, and
removing dead fish. I also made sure she could contact me
at anytime in the event of a problem. For the first couple of
weeks, I stopped in every few days to make sure the tank
cycling was going well. Since then, I've been stopping in
every 2-3 weeks for water changes, fish health checks,
checking tank supplies, and trimming plants--this only takes
45m-1hr at the most. It's does not make a big dent in my
very busy life, and the results have been amazing.

The tank is spectacular! It is extremely low maintenance,
clean, vibrant and lush with live plants and have healthy fish.
We decided to do tropical fish for logistical reasons. If you
want to do native fish, be sure it's not a demanding species
so day-to-day maintenance is kept simple--school staff are
already overworked, all they should have to do is feed the fish
and occasionally scrape algae off the tank glass.

The kids love it. I've been told that it's the first stop whenever
they come to the library. I had one kid with Down's Syndrome
help me with water changes last month. His reaction to the
whole experience was such an undescribable joy that left me
walking on air for the rest of the day! 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.

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.

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 not a criticism of the NANFA
list--it has a wide scope, and science/environmental education is
not a topic that interests everyone.)

- shireen

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