Community-Based Learning

Spring at the Mosier School

Apr 27, 2012 by Caitlin Kidder

Things are going just swimmingly at the Mosier School! This is Caitlin Kidder (Class of 2013, Environmental Studies & International Relations major), again bringing you an update from the Mosier School's salmon egg rearing project. Last time I blogged, our salmon were merely eggs, but now they're tiny alevin swimming around their tank! Well, mostly hiding in the rocks at the bottom (as they tend to do in the wild, to hide from predators). But the kids are still loving learning about such fascinating creatures, and we've covered a lot of ground in the past few weeks! We've discussed the salmon lifecycle, which is rather complicated and involves both river and ocean habitats.

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"There are 300 eggs in there?!"

Apr 16, 2012 by Caitlin Kidder

Hello! My name is Caitlin Kidder, and I am a brand new Community Fellow! I am a junior at Mount Holyoke (Class of 2013), and am a Biological Sciences major and International Relations minor. I am originally from Seattle and am really passionate about environmental justice, marine conservation, and education. In my free time I also am rock music director of Mount Holyoke's non-profit radio station, WMHC 91.5 FM, and am a member of the Five College West African Drumming Ensemble.

Prior to this year I had taken a course on Environmental Ethics, a CBL course that allowed me to work with a local organization called the Kestrel Land Trust, and served as a great introduction to how I could integrate what I learned in the classroom with real action to better my community and the Pioneer Valley. Now, as a junior, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to utilize the countless hours I've spent in labs and looking in microscopes and translate my knowledge into an educational framework that I hope will inspire curiosity and a passion for science in the fourth graders I will be working with.

I just began working with a classroom at Mosier Elementary School in South Hadley, helping to continue a project started almost a decade ago by Mount Holyoke staff and faculty. With the help of Professor Rachel Fink from the Biology Department and Dr. Beth Hooker, program coordinator for the Five College Sustainability Program, I am working on developing a curriculum that can be used year after year by Mosier's teachers as a part of the Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program. I hope to include lots of information on fish development, watersheds, and the history of salmon in the Connecticut River.

Last Friday I visited the Roger Reed State Fish Hatchery with Professor Fink and picked up about 300 fertilized salmon eggs, which we then took to the kids I'll be working with most of the time (Mrs. Gagnon's fourth grade classroom). Mrs. Gagnon and I spent some time explaining what the weird pink spheres in the tupperware container were, explaining that yes, in fact, 300 baby salmon are alive in there! The entire class assisted me as I placed the eggs in their new home (a big tank at in the front hall of the school), and I spent time with small groups of students learning how to make scientific observations and take the tank's temperature, to be recorded in their "Salmon Journals".

The salmon embryos in their tank at Mosier!  

I think my time at Mosier will be challenging but very rewarding. It's going to be tough task learning how to translate scientific jargon and delicate subjects (how do I explain fish reproduction in a way that won't make the kids go "ewww"?) into fourth grade-appropriate terminology. I really hope that I'll be able to use the salmon they are responsible for rearing as a tool to teach them about broader scientific concepts. Hopefully this will manifest itself in a class blog where the students can write about their experiences taking care of the eggs, about the field trips we'll get to go on to sites important in the salmon lifecycle, and just about the general scientific concepts I hope to teach them. I remember the exact day I first learned what "science" was in elementary school, and it had such a big impact on my life; I hope I can inspire similar curiosity about the natural world in the kids I will be working with. Otherwise, what good is all my scientific knowledge if I don't find a way to make it relevant and useful to my community and the world?