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Teaching Our Children About Seafood

Friday 13 June 2014

“My kid’s being taught that nearly all the fish have gone from our oceans…”

“I’ve been asked to go to the local school to talk about ‘overfishing’!”

“My daughter came home from school with anti-fishing flyers in her bag.”

These are just some of the comments that would come up in conversation with New Zealand fishermen who were becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of objective and up-to- date information on the seafood industry in some of our schools.

This frustration was shared by leaders within the seafood industry and Seafood New Zealand with a growing recognition that industry needed to be more proactive in reaching schoolchildren, their teachers and parents.

Doug Saunders-Loder, President of the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen and representative on the industry training organisation, has been a strong advocate for seafood education in schools.

typo3/#“I’ve spent many hours in front of classrooms talking to students and their teachers about sustainability in the seafood industry and the career opportunities it offers,” says Doug. “And I know there are many others out there doing the same.”

“In one of my more recent experiences I was asked to come to a local secondary school by a teacher who asked me to  talk about ‘overfishing’. My first response was why would she think that?”

When Doug came to the school, he saw that the underlying problem was a lack of up-to-date resources. For example, one of the key booklets used by the teacher was published in 1983 and made no mention of the Quota Management System (QMS).

“It struck me that our social licence to operate would be seriously undermined if we didn’t take the initiative and get in front of schools and provide them with factual resources, preferably through a national, co-ordinated programme.

That led to a conversation with the team at Seafood New Zealand who investigated a number of options, including checking out what other industries were doing. The ones doing it well made sure their programmes were integrated with the national curriculum, were relevant and had credibility.

One company that stood out as doing things a little differently but effectively in the education space was the Ministry of Done, run by two ex-teachers, based in Hamilton. Emma Bettle and Kylie Power have made a name for themselves as problem solvers, passionate about getting things done for their clients.
 
Emma and Kylie’s energy, combined with a creative flair and hands-on knowledge of what schools are looking for, made it easy for Seafood New Zealand to recommend that industry progress with them in developing new education tools. This included getting the tick of approval and additional funding from the industry’s Communications Forum, a collective of industry
representatives with combined marketing and communications backgrounds.

“Today’s schools are not about paper, pens and blackboards. Information doesn’t just come from text books and libraries, and it’s no longer just about the other kids in your class,” say Emma and Kylie.

“Schools today want their students to remember, understand, reach, apply, evaluate and create. They do this in  a much more interactive, online and creative way, whether it’s creating a podcast, a Twitter feed or using Instagram to photograph material.”

Ministry of Done’s challenge was to work with the industry and develop  a suite of material that would totally engage primary schoolkids and their teachers and have a “wow” factor. But first, they had to understand the industry they were working with.

“We quickly got a sense of the effort and skill involved in getting seafood from the sea to the plate after speaking to fishermen around the country,” says Emma.

One chat with a fisherman at last year’s Fed’s conference stuck in the mind of Miriam Makgill, part of the Ministry team. “He came up to me after our presentation and said he wanted kids to know how big the waves were that  he had to go over to catch the fish that ended that up on their plates.”

That was a defining moment for the Ministry of Done team in understanding what it meant to be part of this industry. They could see that fishermen and their partners were passionate about what they did, that there was a strong commitment and effort involved in harvesting fish and that they cared about what kids were learning about the industry.

The Ministry also picked up on the strong science connection through fisheries management and suggested an underlying science theme to the materials. This led to an approach to the Royal Society of New Zealand to be part of their CREST programme.

Many parents with primary and secondary school children will recognise the CREST awards scheme which is designed to encourage students to investigate innovative scientific and technological solutions to practical problems. The Royal Society is an independent government body with the aim of advancing and promoting science and technology in New Zealand.

By the end of 2013, Seafood New Zealand had produced 20 lessons which span Years 5-9, linked to 10 Student Activity Sheets and nine Fact Sheets on the industry. 

Seafood Industry comes to Melville High

When Jay Warren, teacher at Melville High, got a visit from the Ministry of Done’s Emma Bettle on the new seafood resources, he liked the idea of his students getting to know the seafood industry a little better.

“The topic and subject interest me, particularly how the QMS works and what’s involved in being in the industry,” says Jay.

That led to a visit by Brian Kiddie, professional fishermen of the Bay of Plenty and his wife Colleen who talked about the QMS and how the industry is regulated. He also brought along the types of fish he catches, from trevally, snapper, kahawai and kingfish and showed them how to gut and fillet the fish in a couple of food technology classes.

Jay said the kids really enjoyed the experience and the best thing for them was seeing and touching fish. “One of the girl’s was dared to kiss the kingfish, and she did!”

“The lesson made it come alive for the kids, especially the hands-on experience of being able to pick up a fish like a kingfish.” Jay said they asked a lot of questions and were surprised at the level of documentation and reporting involved. They also looked at the EEZ and were interested in seeing how the fish get around.

Here’s just some of the feedback he got from the students:

“It’s cool seeing the fish, holding the fish. It’s interesting and exciting.”

“I was surprised at all the different types of fish we found.”

“I was impressed with the size of the kingfish, it was so much fun.”

For Jay the experience was an eye opener as well. “It was really useful to have the kids understand that we’re actually proactive in sustainably producing our fish and that it’s important to our economy. Additionally, we value our community and so we’re appreciative and receptive to this interaction with industry and the professionals who work in them.

“It’s a huge thing in education to make things fun but in practice that’s challenging. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t resist and it was fun but informative. I’d like to continue doing this and I know the kids will be talking about it for the rest of their day.”

For Brian and Colleen the day was equally valuable.

“The students had done their homework and asked lots of good questions,” said Brian. “They were interested in things like protected species, and learnt a lot about how our fisheries are managed well. But the highlight for most of them was the touching and seeing the fish, and then of course eating it.”

They cover topics like Understanding the Quota Management System, Tracing the Hoki Supply Chain in New Zealand to Understanding Why Aquaculture is such a Special Innovation. They sit on both the Royal Society of New Zealand (www.royalsociety.org.nz) and Seafood New Zealand’s (www.seafood.co.nz) websites.

Fast forward to term one, 2014, and the Ministry of Done and their small team of enthusiastic staff have been to over 100 schools with another 400 schools to visit in terms two, three and four. Emma says interest in the resources has been high, with teachers keen to use tools that will help make class sessions fun and cool.

“It’s clear from our conversations with some of our teachers that there is some misunderstanding around the industry and this is going to take time to turn around. But when we sit down with teachers and show them that the material is well grounded and based on fact, they start to engage positively,” say Emma and Kylie.

For Seafood New Zealand the next steps are bedding down the programme and getting feedback from the teachers and students about the online tools and programme.

For Doug Saunders-Loder, this is just the start of the journey into education.

“The current materials rightly focus on the seafood industry and marine environment and once that’s well established I would like to see us engaging in career opportunities for secondary school students.

“I want schoolkids and their teachers to get a balanced view of our industry and to be left with a sense that, actually, this is a great industry to be involved and that has a positive and dynamic future, one that does a lot for our economy in a positive way. “

Image courtesy of Colleen Kiddie

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