Tuesday I visited Debra Waage’s 2nd grade class at J.V. Forrestal Elementary School in Beacon, NY, located where Fishkill Creek meets the Hudson River. The area has a very different terrain than Long Island, lots of hills and babbling brooks.
Debra’s class participates in the TITC program. They are raising brown trout from eggs, which she picked up at the TITC workshop this past October. The kids are clearly having a great time taking care of their trout. They will be releasing them in the Fishkill in April or May.Brown trout fingerlings in Debra’s classroom.
The curriculum we had originally developed for the Adopt-A-Trout Program (posted online) is focused on middle to high school audiences and it is supposed to be implemented over several weeks. A two hour presentation to a 2nd grade class clearly required a different approach.First I talked to the students about the different types of trout we find around here, which are native and which are introduced.
Then I got the students to tell me what things they were providing for the fry they were raising: 1) food, 2) clean environment and 3) shelter. We went on to talk about how life was going to change for their trout once they were released. I introduced them to the food (prey) they might encounter in their environment with the aid of a slide presentation and live animals. I brought in some bugs we had collected on Long Island: scuds, a water strider, a diving beetle, and a crayfish. The students also learned how these different types of food might be caught, either waiting in midstream for food to float by or by actively foraging.
Next we talked about predators: blue herons, snapping turtles, largemouth bass, otters, etc. The kids were very helpful here – many had stories of encounters with these animals. One student asked a really good question: “do big trout eat the little trout”? Why yes they can! I showed them pictures of the Young of the Year in Beaver Brook and the footprint evidence of possible predators nearby.
The take home message at this point is that trout need shelter with plenty of food. Therefore we might expect trout movements to be based on the availability of shelter and food. This brings us to how to study trout movements.
Here I introduced the two methods we use to monitor trout movements. I showed them a PIT tag and taped one to a brook trout plush toy. I gave the trout to a student and asked her to pretend like she was swimming by an antenna (the handheld reader) so the students could see how antennae can identify presence or absence of specific trout.
Then I showed them an activated radiotag which I also taped to a brook trout toy. I asked a student to hide the trout from me in the classroom and then I showed them how we use the Yagi antenna and tracker to find the trout.
They seemed to really like this part.Now we come to the last part of the presentation. I wanted the students to have some experience with the data and its interpretation. I had made maps of Beaver Brook on 11 by 17 inch paper with a simple grid of letters for columns and numbers for rows. The students had tables of grid locations for each of 4 trout we have tracked. Their assignment was, for a each trout, draw pictures of a fish at each of its locations and draw arrows showing direction of movement. It actually worked! For the most part the students were able to complete maps for all four fish. Then we talked about what the trout did. Did the trout move a lot? Did they stay in one place? Which trout moved the most? Did trout like to stay in sheltered areas? I had added hypothetical locations of predators the trout might encounter on the map as they moved between shelters. In this way students could see that trout that move put themselves at great risk.
The whole lesson lasted about one hour 45 minutes. In the remaining 15 minutes before school ended, Debra asked the students to write some of things they had learned. We both were pleased with the outcome. And I believe it can be modified to present to older students up to the 10th grade level. I will be writing this lesson for teacher use and will post online soon.
I am used to teaching college students. What is my impression of the difference? These second graders have longer attention spans, ask better questions, are more curious, and don’t text during class!