Teacher Resource: Aquatic Invasive Species

AIS_kit_web2This toolkit is for use in nonformal science centers in the Western region of the United States. It is one component of the Aquatic Invasions! A Menace to the West package of curricula and outreach materials put together by the West Coast Sea Grant Programs.

Aquatic Invasions! A Menace to the West toolkits are designed to facilitate hands-on opportunities so that visitors to nonformal science centers can explore this global issue through a regional lens. The kit provides interpreters and naturalists with relevant and engaging resources, along with effective strategies for engaging the public in citizen science projects that are suitable for classroom use as well as nonformal education settings.

Components:

For more information, contact Linda Chilton.

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10 Great Reasons To Get Outside More Often

By Cyndi Gilbert

why go outsideHumans are drawn to nature. We feel better when we spend time in forests, gardens, or parks. Edward O. Wilson termed this desire to connect with nature “biophilia.” It implies that an instinctive bond exists between humans and other living systems.

Similar ideas are echoed in the cultural practices of friluftsliv, the Scandinavian philosophy of open air living, and in shinrin-yoku, Japanese forest immersion (or “forest bathing”). And there’s science to back up those warm fuzzies. So, if you need more motivation to make time for a jaunt outside (or convince someone to join you), you’ve come to the right place.

  1. Nature deficit disorder exists, and most of us have it.

Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the social, behavioral, and health consequences of alienation from the natural world. Although scientists are just beginning to understand the health impacts of urban, mostly indoor living, one thing is clear — we need to put down our devices and get outside.

  1. It’s good for your heart (literally).

Japanese researchers have shown that forest bathing, the practice of sitting in the forest, lowers your blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate variability. It has also been shown to decrease stress hormone levels.

  1. You’re less likely to be overweight.

In both kids and adults, access and exposure to nature has been shown to lower the risk of obesity. This relationship is most likely due to increased physical activity. Additional studies show that forest bathing decreases blood sugar and cortisol, both of which are also associated with obesity.

  1. You’ll be happier and improve your memory.

People who live close to nature experience less anxiety and depression. Walking in nature has been shown to improve mood and short-term memory in people with depression, as well as decrease rumination (repetitive, negative thoughts) and brain activity associated with mental illness.

  1. You’ll fight off illness more efficiently.

Exposure to nature improves immune system function in otherwise healthy people, increasing the production of natural killer cells, an important part of our defense against viruses and cancer.

  1. Your brain will work better.

In children, time spent in natural settings decreased ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. In adults, contact with nature improves focus, concentration, and work productivity.

  1. You’ll get more out of your exercise.

Being outside is good for your health, even without the benefit exercise. But if you do choose to exercise in nature, studies show that you’ll feel a greater sense of revitalization, energy, enjoyment, and satisfaction.

  1. You’ll feel less pain.

Just looking at nature scenery in a photo or out a window can reduce our experience of pain.

  1. You’ll sync up to nature’s rhythms.

Being outdoors, and away from artificial lights, helps synchronize your biology to natural circadian rhythms. Scientists investigating chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms, have shown that our connection to natural light/dark cycles helps to regulate our sleep, our moods, our stress levels, and our hormones.

  1. You’ll practice mindfulness, naturally.

Setting aside artificial stimulation and immersing yourself in nature makes you more aware of your surroundings. You hear the rustle of leaves, the creaking of leaves, and the songs of the birds. It’s mindfulness meditation at its most simple.

You can get most of these benefits even with sporadic exposure to nature. Even if you can only get out of the city infrequently, it will improve your health in countless ways. What are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

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Congratulations To Teachers In Santa Clara and Santa Cruz

A big thank you and congratulations to teachers in the STEP (Salmon and Trout Education Program) program who hatched native rainbow trout this year.

The STEP program generally uses steelhead eggs from a private hatchery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. For the second year in a row, the hatchery was unable to provide eggs for classroom incubation. CDFW made rainbow trout eggs available to all teachers in the program.

The experience was very positive for students and teachers alike as students were exposed to curriculum on anadromous and non-anadromous fish, elements of healthy habitat, and how human actions impact these habitats. The fish were released into a variety of popular freshwater lakes in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. CDFW has received glowing reports from the teachers who opted in to this experience.

These teachers took on an extra burden as they needed to learn a new release site (as rainbow trout must be released into freshwater lakes that do not connect with a stream to protect steelhead) and they had to take on much of the work normally handled by their sponsor. They took on the extra burden and did it well.

trout release 4We have no idea what the future holds for this part of the Bay Area Classroom Aquarium Education Program as the combined issues of the drought, issues at this hatchery, and financial concerns for the sponsor are persistent. CDFW will continue to support all teachers trained to hatch fish in their classrooms.

A big thank you to the individuals and organizations that stepped up to support these teachers

  • CDFW Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response
  • City of Santa Cruz
  • Guadalupe River Park Conservancy
  • Mt. Shasta and Darrah Springs Fish Hatcheries
  • San Jose Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services
  • Santa Clara County Parks
  • Silverado Fisheries Base
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Native California Rainbow Trout

rainbow trout

In 1855, the first California rainbow trout were “discovered” in Redwood Creek (Berkeley) and named by Dr. W.P. Gibbons, the founder of the California Academy of Sciences. Of course, native Californians were well aware of the existence of these fish long before that.

Both wild and hatchery strains of rainbow trout continue to exist in waters throughout the state.

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Survey of Newly Trained Teachers Provides Insight on Training

Every year we ask newly trained teachers how well they were prepared for the experience of hatching fish. After they have completed their first cycle of hatching fish, we send an online survey asking them to evaluate (or grade) our efforts at preparing them. Here are the results of this years evaluation.

Method: An online survey (Surveymonkey.com) was sent to first year teachers following the completion of their first year in the program. The responses and analysis follow.

Abstract: We are doing something right. The workshops are effective and many of the materials we share with teachers are very useful in the classroom. There is still room for improvement and some opportunity to make educationally helpful adjustments to our workshops.

Forty-two out of the 111 new teachers responded to the survey, a healthy 38%, which is over 10X the average response to national polls or surveys. The results are representative of the entire group within 3-4 %.

How useful was the workshop?

  • Very:           68%
  • Pretty:         19%
  • Somewhat: 12%
  • A little:         0
  • Not at all:   0

Analysis: The great news here is that all the responses are in the top three categories. My concern is with the teachers who said the workshop was only somewhat useful. The challenge for us is to make the workshop even more useful, based on the responses to the following questions.

How useful was each part of the workshop?

Responses below reflect the responses to the “very useful” top choice.

  • Meeting with the club sponsor:  71%
    • Project Wild Aquatic activities:  67%
    • Biologist presentation:                 61%
    • Tank setup demonstration:         60%
    • How to fill out and handle 772:  56%
    • Wild About Trout CD:                  54%
    • Networking with teachers:          43%

Analysis: These results are validating and show that most of the workshop activities are on target. The fact that less than half felt that meeting with other teachers was useful can indicate several things: a) it was late in the day and they may have been on overload by then; b) we didn’t give them specific enough instructions, such as focusing on the NGSS or Core Curriculum; or c) teachers don’t find talking to each other at this early point in the program that useful.

How useful were the posters, booklets and handouts?

Responses reflect those who said the resource was excellent.

  • Set of 3 trout posters:               88%
  • Trout life stages poster:           83%
  • Macro-invertebrate poster: 76%
  • Teacher Resource Manual:   73%
  • Egg development poster:       68%
  • Return to the Redd:                 50%
  • Wild About Trout CD:             48%
  • What Flows Where poster:   39%
  • Salmon Source CD:                   22%
  • Trout & Salmon Go to K:           5%

Analysis: The responses to this question are informative. Teachers loved all the posters Ed Huff created, and they were up in virtually every classroom. We need to revise the Teacher Resource Manual so more than 73% find it useful; it is heartening that it was rated 73% the first year, but this should be the main resource for all teachers. The CDs weren’t rated highly by over half the teachers, which may reflect the lack of ability to use them easily or the lack of the equipment to do so in many classrooms. Even the lowest rated items were still useful to 39% and 22% of teachers, so it’s a toss-up whether we should skip them or continue to provide them to the teachers who find them useful. The lowest rated item, the booklet for kindergarten, simply reflects that 5% of the teachers teach that grade level.

SSince the workshop, how many times have you …

Many times     A couple of times

  • used Project Wild Activities?:                         33%                     43%
  • used Wild About Trout CD?:                           26%                     33%
  • encouraged another teacher to sign up?:      22%                     39%
  • visited the CAEP website?:                              20%                     39%
  • had sponsor talk to students?:                        17%                     20%
  • visited TIC on Facebook?:                                10%                     24%       One time
  • visited lake or stream in addition to release? 0%                     10%           26%

Analysis: These figures are amazing. 76% of teachers used two or more PWA activities. 59% used the Wild About Trout CD at least 2 times. And 61% of teachers encouraged another teacher to sign up—an incredible vote of approval of the TIC program. 37% of teachers asked their sponsor to speak with the class two or more times, a big vote of confidence in the value of active sponsor participation. And an amazing 36% visited a lake or stream in addition to the one visited on release day; this is highly unusual because so many classes are limited to one fieldtrip per year. It demonstrates that students are being exposed to more outdoor educational experiences than the program requires, an important statement by the teachers on the value of environmental stewardship, place-based and hands-on learning.

Were other topics discussed with students, in addition to trout life cycle and watersheds?

  • Invasive species:     83% of teachers
  • Urban runoff:             79%
  • Releasing pets:         76%
  • Fly fishing:                 36% (probably by coaches from flyfishing clubs?)

Analysis: The vast majority of teachers included a variety of relevant and closely related topics as part of their TIC unit. This paints a broader and more complete picture for students of trout and the challenges to the health of their habitat.

How do you feel about these aspects of the workshop?

These answers reflect the “excellent” responses.

  • Expertise of trainers:               90% rated us excellent
  • Helpfulness of trainers:           86%
  • Refreshments:                             78%
  • The workshop room:                 69%
  • Ease of finding workshop site: 67%

Analysis: Since nationwide studies show that only 17% of attendees on average think any presenter anywhere did a good job, we are way ahead of the averages. It is more amazing since the presenters include CDFW employees, fisheries biologists, experienced TIC teachers, and flyfishers. It also shows that when people receive information that is immediately applicable to their lives, they value it highly. We might include a simple map of the workshop sites from now on to help teachers who don’t use GoogleMaps or other apps.

Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that would improve future workshops?

(¼ of respondents shared additional comments)

  • Schedule the workshops closer to the egg delivery date
  • I need 6 copies of Race to the Redd so all my students can play simultaneously. PS: It’s a piece of artwork. It is just beautiful.
  • More time needed on tank setup
  • Incorporate more NGSS in training
  • Please start a little later on weekends
  • Provide more time to network with grade-level teachers regarding Common Core and NGSS (This was only valued by 42% of teachers in responses to another question, and provides food for thought about retaining what a large percentage of teachers value, even if that percentage is less than 50%.)
  • More time on tank setup and managing the tank
  • Have Spanish copies of Wild About Trout available
  • More time to write up a timeline and plan with sponsor
  • More time on tanks, set-up, common problems, and raising of trout

Analysis: More time for NGSS and Core Curriculum is a common denominator on many responses throughout the survey. So is the request for more time on tank set-up and management. We should consider finding time for these at our next series of workshops. One solution: the Teachers Resource Manual might be modified to focus on a sequential progression of activities beginning with the week before egg delivery and ending with the follow-up to the trout release, with suggestions of activities to do at each stage. We could include a visual timeline to accompany the chart, so teachers can be assured that their tanks are prepared for egg delivery and that they know when to begin the lessons that accompany the unit.

Another solution would be to re-focus the workshop on the most requested activities, minimizing any others that might not be as highly valued. This will be a challenge, as the workshop is already ½ – 1 hour too long by many. But if we include the less requested activities in the Teachers’ Resource Manual, we can point them out at the workshops and they can refer to them later. If we simply can’t drop anything, we need to find a way to make each presentation briefer and/or more to the point.

We could also offer enrichment workshops for the hundreds of teachers who haven’t been exposed to the Teachers Resource Manual at a workshop yet. These could be done in the fall and still leave us time for 3-4 workshops in January and February before the eggs are delivered. This would respond to the request that workshops be offered closer to the time the eggs are delivered, to aide recall of the material, especially the tank setup. And that is another argument for rearranging the Teacher’s Resource Manual more linearly so it serves as a sequential reference during the TIC/SIC unit.

Analysis by Bob Flasher, Interpretive Science Aide, CDFW, who is also open to other interpretations of the data. Comments are appreciated at the Sponsors end-of-year wrap-up meeting on 6/6/15. We are all in this together. Or as the Reverend MLK Jr. pointed out, “We may have come over on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.” And hopefully, that is a flyfishing boat.

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Remember To Return Your Permit!

After releasing your fish, teachers are required to complete the bottom portion of the 772 permit and return the entire permit either directly to CDFW or to your sponsor (check with your sponsor to see what they prefer). Complete all sections on the bottom of the permit, sign it, and make a copy for your records.

If you are sending directly to CDFW, you may send it by:

Mail: 7329 Silverado Trail, Napa, 94558

Fax: (707) 944-5563

email: ethan.rotman@wildlife.ca.gov

You can check the status of your permit at the link above titled “772 Permits Complete 2015″. It is YOUR responsibility to return your permit and check the status.

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The Year (of hatching fish) In Review

It has been a spectacular year for hatching fish despite the continuation of the drought in our state.

LARGEST PROGRAM IN THE NATION: 460 classes applied for permits in the Bay Area – that makes us the SINGLE LARGEST PROGRAM in the entire nation! 10% of all classes participating in programs that hatch fish across the country are part of the Bay Area Classroom Aquarium Education Program. Essentially, we rock. This is possible in large part due to the high level of participation of your sponsor. Be sure to say thanks to them!

TEACHERS CONQUER DROUGHT: Many teachers in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties had successful years hatched rainbow trout for the very first time! The drought has made it impossible for these teachers to receive steelhead trout eggs for the 2nd year in a row. Rather than sit out yet another year, these adventurous souls tried something new helping their students learn that rainbow and steelhead are really the same species. Congratulations!

STRONG FISH SURVIVAL RATES: Almost all classrooms that received eggs successfully hatched and released fish despite higher than average egg mortality rates this year. In an effort to get the eggs into classrooms earlier (thus allowing more time for the eggs to remain in the tanks), CDFW delivered younger eggs than normal. This resulted in higher mortality rates of the eggs, and we saw a lower than average mortality rate in the fry (although I doubt these are related). There were surprisingly  few classes experienced “total tank failure” (fancy words for the entire tank going belly up).

EVERY MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER HATCHED FISH: Oakley School District started a new program with ALL MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE classes hatching and releasing fish. They created curriculum to allow students to participate in the program 3 years in a row and each time study fish from a different perspective. Our congratulations to superstar teacher and TIC curriculum specialist Amy Di Maggio for her outstanding leadership.

PLEDGE TO PROTECT FISH: Marin Municipal Water District created a  Mt. Tam pledge for students. At the release, MMWD staff lead students in a pledge then allow each individual to agree to the pledge by putting an inked thumbprint on the sheet. This beautifully adorned pledge card goes to the school with the teacher to be posted on the classroom wall.

It was another great year. Clean your tank, store it for the summer, write down your ideas for next year and have a great summer. (OH – a remember to send your completed permit back to your sponsor or to CDFW)

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