by Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley
“What kind of fish might migrate up rivers in your region?” I asked Junior School students at Erskine Stewart’s Melville (ESMS) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. “Salmon”, said one. “Trout”, offered another.
“Yes, those are both migratory fishes,” I responded. “But, what about eels?”
“No way! Eels?”
I was inspired to visit ESMS thanks to the first annual World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) planned for May 24th 2014. WFMD is a one-day global initiative that is aimed at creating awareness about the importance of open rivers and the relationship between open rivers and the survival of migratory fishes.
Using a river and landscape made out of construction paper, I proceeded to ask students about where rivers start and where they go, and about why I might be interested in talking with them about World Fish Migration Day given that they are working on collaborative research projects about rivers in the United Kingdom.
Students were ecstatic to learn about new species they hadn’t thought about being migratory, and were particularly interested in brainstorming and learning about ways we can facilitate fish movement past human-made barriers. We talked about the research on road crossings and dam impact being conducted here at the CFL, and about the Menominee River fish elevator installed to help sturgeon migrate upstream. (Check out a cool video on that process here.)
I not only engaged an entire classrooms of students, but was also able to discuss what they had been learning about rivers and World Fish Migration Day with several students one-on-one. This was thanks to Mrs. Carol Syme, head of the Support for Learning Department, who worked with me prior to my visit to develop information sheets and short projects for students. The children followed web links and used the information sheets, putting into practice strategies they had been taught to read and extract appropriate information. They then presented this to others in their small group.
As a result, students who might otherwise not always have an active voice in their classrooms, were already aware of World Fish Migration Day and had already learned some fun facts prior to my visit. This provided them with knowledge and confidence to actively engage when I visited their larger classes.
It was a fantastic experience to engage with children about rivers and migratory fishes, two things I am very passionate about. I also learned new approaches to teaching and engaging students that will help me as I look forward to the next stage of my career.
There are events planned around the world under the umbrella of WFMD to create awareness about open rivers and fish migration routes. Check out their webpage for details: http://www.worldfishmigrationday.com/events.
Happily, my visit to the Junior School appears to have been well received:
On Tuesday 15thApril P7 were visited by Dr Hartley, a freshwater biologist and expert on Migratory fish. She explained to us the importance of the fish that migrate worldwide and their impact on man and animal kind. She also made us aware of the first ever World Fish Migration day taking place on the 24th of May. We listened in interest as she gave us examples of different fish and their reasons to migrate and what effect they have in the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes they live in.
I know that P7 really enjoyed Dr Hartley’s visit and that we wish her the best of luck for her research in the future.
I’m looking forward to engaging with more students like Ariana in the future and, hopefully, expanding public awareness migration fish – especially the eels!