The ‘Rivers and Lochs in the Classroom’ project is four year project  which is being delivered to primary schools across the regions surrounding the Clyde Estuary by three Fishery Trusts/Foundations. The project is being delivered by Ayrshire Rivers Trust, the Clyde River Foundation and Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust. Funding for this project is being provided by the Greggs Foundation.

During 2016 ART delivered a ‘meet your river’ day to six primary schools across Ayrshire. Introducing the pupils to their local river where we provided an electrofishing demonstration followed by a fish identification workshop. Following this the pupils had the opportunity to get in the water and do a kick sample (invertebrate sample) with staff and teachers supervising, this was followed by an invertebrate identification workshop on the river bank.

Over the next three years we continue the project by delivering interactive education to 36 schools (12 each year) across Ayrshire. This part of the project begins in January 2017 and has the pupils from each school take responsibility for their own classroom hatchery.

The salmon lifecycle ‘board’ game has been enlarged to a 6m x 4m floor game to allow the pupils to play on the board. Of course when your board is this big you need dice of an appropriate scale!

This project focuses on introducing primary school children from across Ayrshire to the lifecycle of salmon and trout. The project involves pupils from each school we visit being responsible for raising brown trout from eggs in a special classroom hatchery before releasing the alevins into their local river.

The project is delivered over 3 sessions, with ART staff visiting each school for a ‘launch day’ where the children are given an interactive presentation around their local river, the species of fish that inhabit it, the pressures fish face and their survival strategies. After this presentation the pupils get to play a large scale salmon migration floor game and try their hand at casting indoor practice fly rods. These games link directly to the morning’s presentation and give the pupils a real appreciation for the difficulties Atlantic salmon face when migrating our rivers.

Pupils were given the opportunity to try their hand at casting a small indoor fly rods. With just a little tuition the pupils were getting their ‘wool fly’ into the hoops we had laid out on the floor…there’s a generation of expert fly casters coming along here!

Following these activities the pupils break for lunch after which we set up a classroom hatchery and discuss the pupil’s responsibilities. The school have the next couple of weeks to experiment with keeping the water in the correct temperature range for the eggs to develop.

We will supply each of the schools with 100 trout eggs shortly, the pupils will care for these eggs until they hatch into alevins after which we shall release them into their local river.

When your board is this big it’s easy to get everyone involved and the pupils can link our discussions from the morning session into the salmon migration floor game.

Today we visited Holmstone Primary School and we have another eleven schools to visit over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow we shall update the blog with how the indoor hatcheries operate and some of the responsibilities the pupils will have.

The project is a fantastic way of introducing school pupils to the wonders of rivers and the salmon and trout lifecycle.