Near the Nashua River, a tributary to the Merrimack River, and practically in the middle of of Nashua, New Hampshire sits the Nashua National Fish Hatchery where American shad and Atlantic salmon are raised to restore valuable Atlantic coast fisheries. Katie Marony, a biologist at the Hatchery, is a big fan of Atlantic salmon. She also enjoys working with young people, teaching about fish ecology and inspiring a new generation of biologists. Today Katie shares a new program offered at the Hatchery for 7th graders.
Besides growing Atlantic salmon and American shad to restore important Atlantic coast recreational and commercial fisheries, the Nashua National Fish Hatchery (NNFH) has something else to be proud of – we are the second national fish hatchery in the nation to be awarded a “Hands on the Land” grant through the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The NNFH collaborated with the Amoskeag Fishways Partnership and the Elm Street Middle School to develop and implement a STEM-based educational program for 400 7th grade students in the heart of Nashua, NH. The Elm Street Middle School serves over 1000 students from diverse backgrounds, including many recent immigrants to the U.S. This partnership is integrating in-class lessons for the state’s 7th grade life science curriculum with hands-on, outdoor learning experiences.
The program includes multiple classroom sessions with the experienced staff of Amoskeag Fishways, and culminates in a field trip to the hatchery. And thanks to the generosity of NEEF/EPA, the programs are offered at no cost to the school.
This past May, educators from the Amoskeag Fishways Visitor Center taught three, in-class lessons: 1) watersheds and how water moves through groundwater and surface waters; 2) water chemistry and how to test water, and importance of water quality to ecosystems and people; and 3) fish anatomy and physiology, and habitat requirements. Following the in-class sessions, we transported students to the hatchery for a tour.
The purpose of the tour was two-fold: to introduce students to accessible urban green spaces close to their homes, and to teach them about water use, water treatment, fish production, and conservation efforts by the hatchery to restore our fisheries. “I learned so much about fish and the differences of each fish age.” said Adrianna R. “Your fish were so cute. I didn’t even know there were fish that big in the world.” said Jean Marie S.
Indeed, students were very engaged and surprised by the cool science behind fish culture and protecting our watersheds. The hatchery tours followed the path that the water takes at our facility. “I thought it was so cool that we got to learn about salmon and their life cycle. It was interesting getting to see how the water gets filtered.” said another 7th grader. We showed them our wells, pumps, degassing building, and our water discharge area. One student exclaimed “It was amazing to see all of the fish inside the tents! I hope I get to go again! I never knew you had to degas the water. The lessons before the field trip were really helpful to learn more about the fish hatchery!”
Our post-program evaluation indicated that students retained a majority of the information taught throughout the sessions, as well as an increased desire to visit our facility again. We plan to further develop our program and offer it to the Elm Street Middle School in the future. Come visit us at the Nashua National Fish Hatchery; we are happy to work with your youth group and offer a tour.