Sunday, October 14, 2012

A great 'mini study' -whitebait

A creative teacher should be aways on the alert for interesting things to introduce to his or her class. What do your students know about whitebait?

The whitebait season is with us once again.

I wonder how many children in your class have tasted whitebait fritters or better still been out catching them? Do they know anybody that catches whitebait?

What do your children know about whitebait?

Whitebait made front page news in our local paper last week! The article  stated that 'they are a small fish in trouble. But that is nothing new.Their gradual demise has been well documented since 1840 when shoals were as long as a rugby field were a common site. Back then whitebait were weighed in tons; the next century it could be measured in kerosene tins, then pounds and now, more than ever, in cups.'

It would be great if you could acquire a few whitebait to keep in the class aquarium to study.If not access pictures of whitebait from the Internet of from reference books and make use of for research.

Whitebait make an interesting 'mini study'. Such a study could be part of the literacy programme and an opportunity to introduce research reading and writing to the class. A small research booklet could result and include observational drawing and diagrams.

First ask your students what they know about whitebait ( their 'prior ideas') and from this what questions about whitebait they can think of to research. Teachers could interact with their students to add question children might not think of - or wait because as the study progresses ( and students read up on whitebait) further questions will emerge.

Some questions might be:

Why do they have seasons ( introducing the idea of sustainability)? The season , in most of New Zealand, runs from  August 15th to  November 30th.

What are whitebait? Children will discover there are several native species that collectively are called whitebait. There are five main species of whitebait. They are called kokopu  or inanga. The scientific name  for the species is Galaxidae named after the Milky Way because they are caught their eyes, with their translucent bodies, look like dazzling stars

What is the life cycle of whitebait? Whitebait travel up rivers in Spring, spend the summer up river growing to several centimeters long - called kokopu at this stage. Kokupu then travel downstream to lay their eggs in wetland near the sea.The eggs are washed out to sea - returning in the Spring as whitebait.

How do you catch them?
How do you cook them?

Some interesting maths could be developed around the cost of whitebait? How much do they cost each. Maybe the teacher could buy 200 grams so as to estimate how many in a kilogram!
The price this year is $140 a kilo. Some are being sold @ $35 for 250 grams!
Whitebait bring up the issue of conservation. What might be done to protect whitebait species?

Art work @ 11c a whitebait!
Their answers to their questions could be drafted out and good copies placed in their study books or a small display could be mounted on the classroom wall.

In earlier days teachers would have called this a single animal study.There are possibly articles in school journals for students to refer to? Schools could contact the Conservation Department for information.

For information about inquiry learning

State of science teaching in New Zealand


Merryl McAllister said...

I agree that it could be a great study , But I really think it needs to go beyond just the facts - what are the issues??? Sustainability?? Values?? Relate to other species we fish and we have rules for?? Also as to publishing - how can their learning reach a wider audience - study books mean the audience is very narrow , what about a blog, making a movie to show their learning using cameras and a mix of written and interviews, more engagement here too - post on a blog , email parent community for comments.

Bruce Hammonds said...

For young students it is doubtful that they should be exposed to adult concepts. However if students were to study whitebait then they would learn also the need to sustain the species. I thought I mentioned sustainability in my blog.

You're right - such a study could relate to other fish species at risk but I just thought it would make a great small mini study.

Innovative teachers can take studies as deep as they wish - I just wanted teachers not to miss good opportunity. As for the extended audience - great idea.

To be honest I see so little true inquiry in schools that anything would be netter than nothing.

Anonymous said...

Great idea Bruce - but an expensive resource to share with the class!

I also agree that indepth scientific reseaarch is a casuality of the current emphasis on literacy and numeracy.

Alison said...

Doing 'topics' in general is a casuality of the current emphasis on literacy and numeracy. Sad.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I fear you are right Alison