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Something fishy floats around Mississippi schools
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Something fishy in Mississippi schools is motivating students to learn all about the state's fishery resources.
A new school enrichment module, "Something's Fishy in Mississippi," is now available to fourth grade classrooms through local 4-H agents. The traveling module features a large interactive display accompanied by two personal computers and CD-ROMs, as well as lesson materials to help teachers plan for two weeks of learning activities.
"We want to be sure that students in Mississippi learn about our natural resources," said Marty Brunson, Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist at Mississippi State University. Brunson helped develop the program, which is adapted from work done by the Texas A & M Agricultural Extension Service.
"We want students to develop an appreciation for natural resources and grow into adults who have a stewardship mentality," Brunson said. "Only when people apply a stewardship mentality coupled with an understanding of how ecology works will they be willing and able to preserve resources and support sound conservation and management."
MSU's Office of Agricultural Communications designed the "Something's Fishy" freestanding display, which features a graphic depiction of a watershed and multiple interactive learning centers complete with mounted fish that can be handled by the students. Illustrations of aquatic systems from the Ross Barnett reservoir downstream through the Pearl River to the Gulf of Mexico convey fishery concepts to help students learn.
In addition to teaching science lessons, the module meets more than 70 of the state's required educational objectives for fourth grade students.
"Students learn in a variety of ways that bring a fresh approach, different from studying a textbook," Brunson said.
Designers used bar graphs to illustrate fisheries data, and students gain reading comprehension skills when they summarize various reading passages or answer questions.
"The display and computer programs give the kids something they enjoy, and they are learning in the process. It also offers teachers an alternative way to teach. We really have received a good response from the teachers who have used the module so far," Brunson said.
The MSU Extension Service, which provides primary funding and maintenance for the traveling module, hopes to create additional modules to circulate around the state and meet the classroom demand. The Extension Service has created traveling displays featuring white-tailed deer and bobwhite quail, but "Something's Fishy" features the most comprehensive multi-media learning tools.
Financial assistance came from The Weyerhaeuser Co., Quality Deer Management Association, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and Quail Unlimited. Brunson said Extension is currently seeking funds to add units and create traveling modules for wild turkey and endangered species.
"The traveling module has shown great potential to be very popular and successful as a learning tool in our schools. We hope to make as many available as we can so that each school can use the module for one two-week period per school year," Brunson said.
For more information about "Something's Fishy in Mississippi," contact your local 4-H Extension agent.