By Emily Halstead, Virginia Cooperative Extension Communications and Marketing Intern
Fish are playing an active role in helping sixth-graders in several Virginia schools learn more about the natural environment.
The Trout in the Classroom program, created by 4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse, allowed students to raise trout and monitor their growth as well as to experience the release of the fish at the end of the yearlong curriculum.
“I offered presentations on trout of Virginia, the trout life cycle, external and internal trout anatomy, trout dissection, and trout adaptions,” Hawse said. “The unit culminated with a field experience to release the trout. The students had a blast.”
According to Hawse, the project provided students with a meaningful watershed educational opportunity, ensuring that their experience releasing the trout offered more awareness of the importance of environmental education.
“Freeman Tilden wrote a book called ‘Interpreting Our Heritage,’ where he stresses the importance of the idea that ‘through interpretation, understanding; through understating, appreciation; through appreciation, protection,’” Hawse said. “His point was if people don’t understand why they should care about resources — cultural, historical, natural —- they won’t care. If we can help lead them to care about resources, if we can relate those resources to something important to the individual, they’ll learn to care.”
The Trout in the Classroom curriculum was originally offered to 67 students from Rockbridge Middle School, but as a result of the program’s success, several other local schools have asked to implement the project. Hawse is now offering the program in Bedford County where she recently transferred.
“The success has been two-fold. When I started in Rockbridge County, it had been years since 4-H had outreach in schools. I focused on getting back into schools and making partnerships,” Hawse said. “When I transferred to Bedford County, Rockbridge had scheduled every sixth-grade student in the county to participate in the program. I think for me, there’s also success in the impact that environmental education has on the students.”
The Virginia 4-H Foundation and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council are funding the program in Bedford County. Hawse said she hopes to use the grants to provide Bedford with a trout tank.