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Shad in Schools

Spring and the last part of the school year often bring anticipations of warm weather and outdoor activities. Spring is also the time of year when the shad bush blooms and the American shad start their migratory journeys up America’s major rivers and their tributaries. Shad in Schools is a course of study designed for school age students and teachers from elementary through high school to heighten their knowledge and awareness of one of America’s most important migratory fish, the American shad. Students will learn concepts related to the shad’s survival and importance in our environment and the food chain, as well as other ecological understandings.

Shad in Schools uses a system of raising American shad from eggs to shad fry through custom built mini shad hatcheries located in classrooms or other easily observed locations. This provides a “hands-on” approach to learning about the American shad and many ecological concepts.  Our program is a complete course of study entailing a four to five week commitment on behalf of teachers and students. It involves much more than just hatching shad fry. Students monitor water temperature, PH, ammonia and nitrate, and chlorine levels by daily testing. The dead eggs are removed and counted. The program combines history, ecology, math, science, presentation skills, research opportunities and more into a meaningful end-of-the year project.

The program was developed in response to the continuing critical decline in shad populations in the past two decades. It is patterned after the highly successful “Schools in Schools” program developed by Mr. Jim Cummins, present Director of Living Resources for the Potomac River Basin. Mr. Cummins, along with teachers from the Westbrook Elementary School and others, developed a method of hatching American shad in custom-made tanks in classroom settings. His school program involved teachers, students, parents, and community members which created so much awareness of the plight of the shad that action was taken to restore the shad on many fronts. The Potomac is now the only major river on the East Coast to have a significant increase in the shad population. It is hoped that with the Shad In Schools program our rivers will again “run silver again.”