Teaching hands-on science to students is never simple. And, during the pandemic, it has been even more challenging. The in-person opportunities to do experiments and investigations are limited when students are remotely learning. But, some local organizations are turning this on its head and finding ways to expand what they can offer to students in directions they previously didn’t consider.

Sometimes it’s easier to get an expert on camera than it is to get them into your classroom. That’s what Colles Stowell, founder of One Fish Foundation, an organization dedicated to spreading the word about sustainable seafood, has found. He has taught more than 2,000 students since beginning this work in late 2015. He typically visits schools to engage students in interactive classroom discussions, often lugging along a heavy turtle excluder device to show how it works. But, it has always been hard to show things like what it is like in operation or to have a fisherman come along with him.

Now, he has created a series of videos that include some of these previously missing pieces like an interview with a native Alaskan about subsistence fishing methods. These videos give students a broader picture of where their seafood comes from and how to make sustainable choices. They can also reach more students because the “classroom visits” are virtual. For example, in the past, the organization has worked with students primarily in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Now, however, they can reach students in other states. They can also reach more students at each school since the videos can be presented to multiple classes. This is a welcome option for teachers who are trying to offer engaging content to their students during the pandemic.

One Fish’s programs are tailored to each grade in order to suit the appropriate interest level as well as to fit into the class curriculum. Elementary school students might learn simple things like what a certain fish looks like, where it is caught and what type of gear is used to catch it. Older students delve further into the dynamics of the ocean including discussions about ocean acidification and invasive species as well as an introduction into the economics and policy around fisheries.

Although Colles finds that 65-75% of the students he works with eat seafood, that still leaves a chunk that doesn’t. That’s true for the rest of the population as well. In the bigger picture, the work of One Fish is to make the connection between people and seafood and to show them that their decisions matter. “You have a relationship with seafood as a resource whether or not you eat it,” says Colles. “The choices you make on land have an impact on what lives in the sea.”

The pandemic has fostered new opportunities for teaching about sustainable seafood not only in the classroom but also at the market. The lack of a supply chain during the pandemic created an opportunity for more direct sales by small-scale local harvesters. This often came with a bit more information about where the seafood came from and how it was caught. It also created more of a connection between the harvesters and the consumers. Many local organizations have been

helping to facilitate these opportunities, the benefits of which will hopefully last beyond the pandemic. One of the facts Colles presents to students is that 90% of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported. That’s a shocking statistic when you live in Maine, and it points to the disconnect between consumers and seafood.

For those interested in engaging in the work of One Fish outside the classroom, their website has a helpful set of resources including topical blogs, guidance for choosing sustainable seafood, recipes, and links to a series of webinars and podcasts explaining some of the challenges, successes and issues in fisheries around the world.

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