Opinion Column

Innovative class project shows life

 Annie Chandler

There is an interesting contraption sitting in the back of Sean Rennie’s Grade 5 class at Mountainview Elementary School in Collingwood.


It is a maze of plastic pipes running through some high-tech machines and eventually into a large aquarium filled with young Chinook salmon.

The “In School Salmon Hatchery Program” has been made possible by another wonderful community partnership with the Georgian Triangle Anglers Association.

Thankfully fellow Optimists Club members Rick Baldry and Sean Rennie worked together to make it happen. The program currently runs out of the Lake Huron Fishing Club and is funded by Bruce Power.

We are very fortunate to have this unique hatchery program in one of our SCDSB schools. During my recent visit to Mountainview, it was heartwarming to see the students beaming with pride and ownership over their little swimming charges. They share with me that the fish become very active when the classroom light comes on because it is their way of saying hello to the students.

I was also educated about the importance of the water temperature being maintained by the “Chiller” at 8-11 degrees Celsius so that the fish stay acclimatized to their natural habitat.

The eventual plan is to release them into their original environmental home, the Sydenham River, where they will hopefully grow and flourish. The students were quick to point out that their little fish were in the “Parr” stage of their life cycle with little stripes running vertically on their bodies acting as a form of camouflage. From the day they received their Fry the class has been continually posting thoughts, questions and ideas on an “I Wonder Wall” behind the aquarium.

According to their enthusiastic teacher Sean Rennie, having the hatchery in the classroom has allowed his Grade 5 class to have challenging real life discussions such as the “survival of the fittest” because the students are sometimes required to clean out the odd fish that doesn’t make it. The aquarium also creates a sense of therapeutic calm in the classroom. School principal Bill Floyd will often bring in other students who are “having a rough day” just to watch the salmon’s gentle circular movement.

If you would like to view these tiny Chinook and follow their progress you can watch it on Twitter at Mr. Rennie’s Class @RennieMTV.

The school is very appreciative of their community partnership with the Georgian Triangle Anglers Association. When I spoke with Baldry about the project I could sense his enthusiasm through the phone.

According to Baldry he feels that the hatchery program educates students about the fragility of the fish life cycle and teaches young people that we all need to “work together” to help with local conservation.

He is hopeful that the next time those Grade 5 students catch a fish they will think about where it came from and the struggles it had endure. Who knows, maybe they will think, “Did I help to raise that?”

Annie Chandler is trustee for Collingwood and Clearview with the Simcoe County District School Board.

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