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Yellowfish Road - Grade-School Activities and Environmental Learning around Georgian Bay

By Sean Mullin

While working for Georgian Bay Forever, I have had the pleasure of delivering our Yellow Fish Road and Microplastics in a Backpack educational programs to students of various ages all around the bay. These students range from Grades 2 through 10, with one reoccurring theme during the programs being an interest and enthusiasm for hands-on learning. Our programming is almost entirely hands-on, with a focus on giving participants up-close experience in dealing with plastic pollution.

school children wearing oragne vests on the street in Collingwood, Ontario

Yellow Fish Road has participants painting bright yellow fish next to storm drains to bring awareness to storm drain pollution, while the microplastics program lets students interact with microscopes to discover plastics in various soil samples. Throughout these sessions I have witnessed a genuine increase in attention by simply letting the classes know they will be participating in an activity, and not only listening to me talk about it. When the students realize that they get to interact while learning, they tend to become much more engaged in the lessons. I have also found that hands-on learning can sometimes bring out a fun competitiveness to the students. In the YFR program, students will compete to see who can paint the best-looking fish, while the microplastics program has students comparing the plastic pieces they find to one another.

This brings another fun element to the learning that regular lessons don’t typically have.

 Everyone learns a bit differently from one another, but allowing for hands-on learning gives the opportunity for each person to discover things their own way and in their own time. Those who may learn visually or kinesthetically can take the time to examine the materials in front of them while I am explaining each section. Others who may learn in a more auditory capacity can listen to the information I provide and tie it into what they can physically touch. This tends to garner an interest in wanting to discover more about what is in front of them.

Several kids wearing orange vests painting a yellow fish using a stencil

This interest paired with the hands-on leaning in these sessions can also stimulate questions from even the quietest of students. Most of these questions take a “what-if” approach, but these tend to generate even more conversations within the sessions. Each program can be shaped completely differently depending on what and how the students see the components in front of them. Some classes may choose to focus on ways that pollution can be prevented, while others may want to dive more into the impacts that plastics have on our water. The hands-on learning creates an environment that can be shaped however the students want it to look, with a greater amount of flexibility than regular lessons.

A group of kids in Collingwood, Ontario, standing in a parking lot listening to a teacher with a stencil that says "Rain Only"



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