Grade 2, JICS Lab School
Within the first few days of our distant learning adventures, the Grade Twos sent a flurry of questions my way expressing deep concern for the state of our classroom salmon. Reassuring them in conversation simply was not going to cut it with these keen 7 and 8-year-old children. Many continued to ask if they could see what our alevin (a newly spawned baby salmon still carrying the yolk) looked like right now:
“Have they grown?” “Will they have enough to eat if they finish they yolk sacs?” “How will they get out of their egg condo?” “Are they going to die without us?” “How will we restore the salmon habitat?”
Using my smartphone and video conferencing, I was able to schedule a live look at not only the salmon tank, but the also the release of the alevin into the classroom habitat that the children helped me construct. Since February, the Grade Twos have been monitoring the development of the salmon from one-eyed eggs to alevin and have their fingers crossed they will get a chance to release them into Duffins Creek this May.
Through the use of a microscope pen to capture detailed images of the salmon eggs and alevin that did not survive, I found that the children quickly began asking deeper questions about things they thought they already understood. Others began sharing new perspectives on the fragility of our environment and finding themselves with a deeper connection to the Land and to our theme this year of how everything is connected.
“You know, it’s actually kind of weird to see a fish so close up. It is just that there are so many different details and different things that we couldn’t see from inside the tank. It’s pretty cool."
- Madeleine, Gr. 2
“If there were no predators and we made sure the water was not contaminated, why didn’t those ones survive? How many salmon usually survive?"
- Simon, Gr. 2
By not having a concrete answer myself, I was able to push the learning and engagement forward by using Simon's question to facilitate children's theory development and knowledge building. Our discussion then shifted to thinking about how difficult it must be for developing salmon to survive in water that is contaminated.
Using Simon’s question about the rate of survival for salmon in their natural habitats, the class shared what they knew about factors that would limit the chances of survival for wild salmon:
“Garbage might pollute the water and cause them to get sick and maybe even die.”
- Niamh, Gr. 2
“Sometimes, fish eat plastics. When they go to it in the water, they think it is food and eat it. This means the water is contaminated.” - Lillian, Gr. 2
“I want to build onto their idea because some people were putting pesticides on the grass, most likely so bugs don’t eat the plants, but then the problem is that the pesticides stay in the ground and go into the water when it rains. Through the ground and into the water and that water goes most likely into an ocean or lake. It poisons drinking water for us and the salmon. You’re not supposed to eat pesticides. You should just let the birds eat the bugs. The pesticides on the bugs, might even poison the birds. It affects all kinds of creatures.” - Everett, Gr. 2
Letting the children take the lead in knowledge building, we developed a list of ideas that would help to preserve and restore salmon habitats: 1. Don't use / reduce the use of pesticides. 2. Reduce plastic use so that fish do not think it is food. 3. Help the water by keeping out the industrial waste like oil and chemicals. 4. Leave the water habitats alone. 5. Let nature do what it needs to do. 6. Tell people to not build dams that prevent salmon from reaching their homes. 7. Raise salmon to restore the habitat populations.
Looking Towards Sustainability
As we are faced with the challenges of physical distancing and the limitations of remote learning in what would normally be a constructivist classroom setting, the Grade Twos have made it clear that they are still so eager to enrich their connection with the natural world. Building off of the Grade Twos' research, questions, interests, and their discussions, I plan to harness this momentum and put their understanding into action. In the coming months we will be looking at sustainable practices for conservation and biodiversity. By connecting with nature as a community in our own individual ways, we will be able to share online our unique learning journeys that support and promote a love for the outdoors.
David's story can also be accessed in this beautiful SWAY.