A fresh take on the region's salty affairs
Proud Shaddys and Shamommas!
A Shad in the Classroom Tale
By Danielle Pender, Shad in the Classroom Program Specialist, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, December 12, 2016
The enthusiasm of the students and the teachers who participate in the Shad in the Classroom Program is contagious! The Shad in the Classroom program begins for North Carolina schools with a teacher workshop in February, shad tank set up and water quality monitoring in late March or early April, learning about the life history and management of American shad, and participating in some special educational offerings related to the program. But for the Shad in the Classroom students, the true enthusiasm begins with the delivery of their shad eggs (babies)!
Shad Arrival! Kelly Riley and Tiller Elementary School students. Credit: Danielle Pender
The excitement of Shad in the Classroom 2016 started with the delivery of American shad eggs to 27 schools in April over three Mondays. This is a time of great anticipation and delight for the students, and one classroom dubbed themselves the “shaddys and shamommas” of their shad eggs. The term “shaddy” came from one of the extra educational activities that we offer - a genetic exercise entitled “Who’s Your Shaddy” that was developed by the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences staff. These students “swam” away with the idea and expanded it to include both the boy (shaddy) and girl (shamomma) students as the parents of the shad as they care for them for the week.
Learning about the American shad, environmental issues impacting the fish, and its importance to our state and country is a foremost component of the program. Hands-on elements include students measuring water quality and monitoring egg and larval development for the week that they raise their shad. Students are super-excited to watch the eggs turn into a larval fish, to be able to watch the heart beating, and to witness the larval fish hatching from the egg.
Left: Egg development, Right:Yolk sac fry. Credit Karen Curry, East Wake Middle School
Some additional in-class and at-river educational offerings in which students can participate include Gyotaku (fish printing; notice the photo above of the students with their shad print shirts from Tiller Elementary School), a genetics exercise mentioned above, a fish dissection and anatomy lesson, macro-invertebrate sampling and identification at the fish release site, and a boat electrofishing demonstration at the release site.
Invertebrate sampling with Woods Charter Middle School. Credit: Danielle Pender
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 Commission, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership. Museum staff are presently reviewing applications for a new crop (2017) of shad students and parents.
Electrofishing demonstration on the Neuse River with Ben Ricks & Kayla Herrera, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, & Stacey Feken, APNEP. Credit: Danielle Pender
As many good parents would, shad students send their shad fry off with names, well wishes, poems, and prayers for a safe return to North Carolina Rivers as adult fish.
Larval shad release, Daniels Magnet Middle School. Credit: Danielle Pender
The students learn a great deal about American shad, an important resource to North Carolina, and so much more about natural resources, aquatic biology, and the connections in an ecosystem that include humans! We received many positive and constructive feedback from the teachers and their students, and following quotes are a couple of examples of that:
Students have indicated that they better understand what the American shad (and fish in general) need to survive, that it is important to keep our rivers clean, about the connections in nature, and that they can have an impact on the fish and their environment. They connect with the American shad and have learned to become better stewards and better shaddys and shamommas!
Fish Dissection Lesson. Credit: Brad Rhew, Walkertown Middle School