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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - 2014-05-09

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Shad take to the river, hook students

By: Jim Hawhee, APNEP Policy & Engagement Manager
May 9, 2014

Teacher Kelly Riley of the Tiller School counts shad fry with her students

Through the Shad in the Classroom partnership, students from 20 schools throughout the Albemarle-Pamlico region care for shad eggs until they hatch by maintaining water quality in an on-site aquarium. Teachers use their aquatic visitors to reinforce a variety of math and science concepts while educating students about their local watersheds and their connection to the estuary and ocean. The week culminates with a field trip to release the fry into the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers. The initiative is led by the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and supported by several agencies and organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commissionand APNEP.

Every year the program brings new and exciting programming for the students, and this year was no exception. For the first time this year, educators from the museum, APNEP, and the N.C. Natural Heritage Program hosted River Days for five schools near the Roanoke River, offering hands-on lessons about local plants and animals. Inside an immersive traveling dome, students also watched a short film entitled “We are the River,” a new documentary film that details the Roanoke‘s natural and cultural history.

After watching the film, students draw what the river means to them

Below, staff from the museum and APNEP recount their favorite moments from this year’s Shad in the Classroom initiative.

Marie English, APNEP: We led an activity called Hooks and Ladders to teach students about factors limiting shad populations. Students, pretending to be shad, tried to survive a migration obstacle course. After making it through a turbine, predators, fishermen, a fish ladder, and up a waterfall jump, they learn that migrating from the oceans to rivers to spawn is not an easy task! A highlight of this activity was getting teachers involved in the roles of fishermen and predators. Hooks and ladders was a way for students to learn kinesthetically while having fun with their teachers. Teachers said the activity was a great learning tool that encouraged problem solving!

students play hooks and ladders

Students become shad for this game of "Hooks and Ladders"

Danielle Pender, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences: I really love the excitement that I see in both the students and the teachers. There is so much enthusiasm for the program and it is very contagious! Many students expressed that their favorite part about raising the shad was seeing the young larvae move within the egg and then hatch. They can’t believe that they are actually living creatures. Four of the classes this year also got to witness a boat electrofishing demonstration. The students were very excited to see the many species that came up from the depths of the water, including American shad. When I was saying goodbye to the students on the bus one shouted to me “I am going to do that”!

Children smile while touching catfish

East Wake Middle School students get hands-on experience with fish living in the Neuse River 

Jim Hawhee, APNEP: I met a class from Beaufort’s Tiller School at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. After a beautiful view from the cliffs and a short trip to the riverbank, the 4th graders in attendance peppered me with questions about shad migration, genetics, and the likelihood of their shad babies returning home. The aha! moment? A student realizing that the shad fry she helped raise in kindergarten could be parents of a fish she was releasing that day!

Shad release at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

For more about this fascinating fish, check out this introductory video from the Museum, one of many found on their Shad in the Classroom webpage.

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