First I had to learn what a "phenomenon" was!
On December 7, Mary Fiedler, 5th & 6th grade science teacher at Cambridge Elementary School, asked this question:
I was wondering if anyone has any catchy phenomena to begin the TIC unit? Last year's teacher used "what caused the fish kill" and had a lovely few pics of dead fish, but I used that question for my watershed unit earlier this year. Does anyone have any suggestions?
A few of you responded with good ideas for kicking off the TIC project, which we'll get to in a bit, but first, "What is a phenomenon in the NGSS context?"
It wasn't all that easy for me, an outsider to the world of the NGSS, to answer that question, but here's a definition that I found:
Phenomena are observable events in nature (or our lives) that connect to multiple NGSS disciplinary core ideas, such as Finnish Snow Trees or the behavior of bees. Throughout a unit, students work towards explaining the science concepts behind the phenomenon in their own words.
I didn't find that very helpful but also came across this, which illuminated the topic better:
Phenomena are commonly thought to be the "ewwwww, weird, oh man!!" kinds of traditional science demos which (while still really fun for teachers & students) are not always academically productive. Phenomena should drive units and keep students working to "figure out" rather than "learning about."
I found the statements above at this Web site that has many examples and is searchable. The Web site also allows you to submit your own phenomena to the shared database.
So, I'm hoping that some of you can provide examples of phenomena you use or plan to use with your TIC students.
I'm getting lots of reports of schools that are either in or through the pre-cycling process. As I mentioned in my e-mail a few days ago, a fair number of teachers missed the message that, if BOTH your ammonia and nitrite hadn't hit 1.0 ppm or more, you needed to add more ammonium chloride.
I also got an e-mail from Steve Flint, of Mary Hogan School, saying that his ammonia went up and down, as it should do during the nitrogen cycle, but that his nitrite was 10.0. Whoa! I relayed that to Robb Cramer, and he recommended a 50% water change. Steve was also wondering whether that very high measurement might be an artifact of the test strip water testing system he is using.
Let's remember what's supposed to happen in the nitrogen cycle.
More ways to kick off TIC
Last week, my wife and I visited our granddaughter's 3rd grade class to teach a Four Winds lesson on erosion. We began by asking the kids what they remembered of Tropical Storm Irene, which had a terribly destructive impact on most of Vermont in August 2011. Fortunately almost all of these eight and nine year olds had vivid memories of the floods and raging rivers that Irene brought to their neighborhoods.
That turned out to be a great way to initiate a conversation about erosion. I suspect it might not be a bad way to start talking about trout habitat.
A quick Internet or YouTube search will turn up numerous dramatic videos illustrating Irene's destructive force.
Here's one, shot in Taftsville, that includes oil and propane tanks racing down the Ottaquechee River. How's that going to affect the habitat?
This longer video by Seven Days covers many areas of the state. (There is a bleep-able word at 1:02".)
What happens to the trout when this is going on?
In addition to riveting videos like these, for older kids that are some great text-and-photos resources available about the impact of Irene.
Here's a great story from Trout Unlimited's Trout magazine about the consequences of the flood and the conditions that made it worse.
This is a Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department report on the impact of Irene on Vermont rivers and their inhabitants. As you can see, it's more technical and text-heavy but has good data and great charts.
Let us know your ideas about how to introduce students to the TIC project!
This past week, after the back-to-back shopping orgies of Black Friday (which now seems to start Wednesday evening!), Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, we celebrated Giving Tuesday, a day when we're encouraged to be philanthropic. Here are four stories about individuals who were giving in ways that benefitted trout or the people who love them.
First, an "origin story."
In 1988, Maryellen Soarino, who grew up in my hometown, the bucolic Jersey City, NJ--just kidding!--was a 30-year-old 4th grade teacher in northern New Jersey. Her curriculum called for studying the state of New Jersey, and through that process, her students discovered that New Jersey had a state flower, a state bird, and lots of other state things, but no state fish. They decided to fix that problem; and, while there were many ups and downs in the campaign process, four years later, New Jersey had a state fish, the brook trout. Yeah, 4th graders! Yeah, Maryellen!
But Maryellen didn't stop there. Not long after, in 1991, Maryellen introduced her students to what we now know as the Trout in the Classroom program. She called it Project HATCH at the time. What did they raise? Brook trout, of course!
While TIC traces its roots to Canadian school salmon programs that started in the 1970s (which then spread southward into California in the 1980s), there were no trout in classrooms anywhere else in the country until Maryellen got her inspired idea. After she demonstrated how well it could work, TIC spread rapidly, first to NYC and then to what ultimately became 33 states across the country. It even made it to Vermont!
Thank you, Maryellen! We wouldn't be here without your brilliant and generous work as a teacher.
P.S.: She's still at it!
Next, a story about environmental activists giving a river back to their region
The Clyde River, in the Northeast Kingdom, used to have legendary runs of landlocked Atlantic salmon that came by the thousands out of the depths of Lake Memphremagog every fall and swam up the lake's tributaries, especially the Clyde, to spawn. The reputation of the fishery brought anglers by the trainload from as far away as New York, Boston, and Montreal. When the salmon were running, all Newport, Vermont's, hotels were sold out!
That began to change, however, as more and more hydroelectric dams were built on the river, the "dagger in the heart" was the dam that went up in 1957. As a result, for many decades, salmon fishing was just a fond memory of local old-timers. Above is a glimpse of what downtown Newport looked like in the heyday of the salmon runs.
But what about that picture of Ian Sweet that I included in last week's blog? Wasn't he holding a huge landlocked salmon? Well, things are a lot better now, and the salmon are back.
This story, of another form of generosity, was told in the Summer 1995 issue of Trout Unlimited's Trout magazine. Here's the cover:
What happened is that a May 1, 1994, spring "freshet" on the Clyde blew out a portion of an important dam on the river. In that same timeframe, the company that owned the dam was in the process of seeking to get it relicensed, something that has to be done every 50 year through a process, overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, known as FERC.
That's when environmental activism kicked in. Several groups, including the Northeast Kingdom chapter of Trout Unlimited (now defunct), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council joined by impassioned local citizens organized to fight the dam's relicensing. Especially in an age of concern about climate change, hydroelectric power has many benefits, but in this case the economic benefits of the dam were modest, and the environmental and economic benefits of reestablishing this historic fishery were judged to be far greater.
I've scanned the 23-year-old article by John Dillon and put it in a folder on our Google Docs site. Here's a link to that folder:
So, here's an interesting coda to my story about Ian Sweet's recent fishing accomplishments on the Clyde.
Ironically, one of our TIC/SIC teachers may have had an important role in helping Ian tie into that fish. When Ian arrived at the Clyde that morning, he realized that he had left his flies at home. Fortunately, he ran into Chris Murphy, TIC teacher at North Country Union High School, who gave him several of his flies. Great going, Chris. I hope the fishing gods reward you for your generosity someday with an equally impressive salmon!
And I would be remiss if, in this blog post in which I celebrate Giving Tuesday, I didn't also acknowledge the many individuals and groups that have supported TIC in Vermont. Over the past four years, numerous Vermont schools have gotten equipment and supplies, and financial contributions to our annual workshop, through donations and awards from the following foundations, organizations, and philanthropists:
Saving the brook trout
Steve Flint, of Mary Hogan School, told me about a great WCAX story that I had missed. It aired on Tuesday, November 27, and was called "Saving the brook trout." It's about the habitat improvement work that's taking place on brook trout streams in the Northeast Kingdom. It also explains why it's necessary to do this sort of work. (What's your guess? Why would streams in a remote, heavily forested part of the state far from development and industry need improvement?)
Here's a link to the video.
This video is somewhat similar to a story that aired on the PBS Outdoor Journal program a couple of years ago. You can find that story and a dozen others on the Other Trout Videos page of this Web site. So you don't have to hunt for that page, here's a link.
Finally, as they say in the closing moments of the cooking competition shows I like to watch, "Put it on the plate!"
This blog hasn't really addressed the process of doing the TIC program. But we're at a critical point for that. By now, you should have received all your equipment and set it up. I hope that includes getting your bottle of Tim's ammonium chloride (see the 11/14/18 blog). Because we're just a few days away from December 3rd, when you'll want to start the pre-cycling process. This is described on pages 19 & 20 of the current VTTIC Manual. We believe pre-cycling will greatly reduce water chemistry problems. If you want to review how to do this, in addition to reading those two pages of the Manual, you can also watch Robb Cramer's presentation at the recent TIC workshop (below).
Thanksgiving is behind us!
The usual advice is to get Trout in the Classroom tanks set up by Thanksgiving. Did you make that target this year? If not, you've got just a few days to pull your tank together.
Getting your tank set up before the end of November is more important this year than ever because we want you to pre-cycle your tank starting on Monday, December 3rd. If you're a first-time TIC teacher, remember to put foam under your tank before you fill it with water. Other tips on where to locate your tank include the following:
We have a video below in which Bob Wible demonstrates how to set up a tank, but there are also numerous videos on YouTube which show how to do that. I've put links to several videos created by Maryland science teacher Shawn Ackley on a page you can find on our VTTIC Web site. Here's a link to it.
For the first time, segments of this year's TIC workshop were recorded. Ian Sweet, an accomplished television broadcaster and member of the Mad Dog Chapter of Trout Unlimited, brought his digital video-recording equipment and microphones to our 11/10/18 workshop. As a result, we can now share with you five videos Ian produces based on that day's presentations. Ian's not only a great videographer, he's a great fisherman. Here's a massive landlocked Atlantic salmon he caught this fall on the Clyde River in northern Vermont. Notice that fish's hooked jaw? It's a spawning season male. The hooked jaw is called a kype.
Ironically, one of our TIC/SIC teachers may have had an important role in helping Ian tie into that fish. When Ian arrived at the Clyde that morning, he realized that he had left his flies at home. Fortunately, he ran into Chris Murphy, of North Country Union High School, who gave him several of his flies. Great going, Chris. I hope the fishing gods reward you for your generosity someday with an equally impressive salmon!
Here are the five videos Ian produced.
1. Joe Mark on the six months of TIC
2. Jeremy Whalen on spawning and the creation of triploid eggs
3. Joe Mark and Bob Wible on tank set-up
4. Robb Cramer on water chemistry and the pre-cycling process
5. Joe Mark on "March Madness" and managing the swim-up stage
Thanks so much, Ian, for recording and editing these videos.
If I had thought about the fact that you were making our performances immortal, I might have tried to be more eloquent. Nevertheless, I hope these recordings will benefit those who couldn't make the workshop as well as those who were able to attend but found the content coming a little too quickly to absorb it all.
TIC's long summer snooze ends
Joe Mark is Lead Facilitator of Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program.
In June 2012, I retired after 40 years in higher education, having spent the last 32 years of my career as dean at Castleton. One of the first things I volunteered to do in retirement was to work with a parent-friend to help the Dorset School, where his kids and my Vermont grandkids attend, start a TIC program. Gradually that commitment grew into my current role, which is both demanding and highly rewarding.