Participation in environmental learning

Finding something relatable for all ages

Participation in environmental learning

Finding something relatable for all ages

Community Participation -


The issue

The Sunray Warriors is an event that is held each year in Mildura. Children from local primary schools are invited along to participate in Environmental learning activities. Fifteen primary schools in NSW and VIC attended the event with classes from Kindergarten to Year 6. My presentation was a hands on activity all about the detrimental impact of feral fish on our waterways. It very quickly became evident that I would need to tweak my presentation to suit the different age rangesof children from Kindergarten to Year Six classes.

The solution

Before the hands on activity we talked about why feral fish are so detrimental to native fish populations, what  they eat, where they live, how they got there and the impact they have on native fish populations over time. With the younger classes I concentrate on identifying fish as good fish or bad fish and why they are bad fish. 

To get the kids really interested in the subject I have developed a relevant, hands on activity with a little competition and this is always a great way to encourage kids of all ages to get involved. The activity starts by splitting the class in half. I have a lot of laminated pictures of both native and feral fish with magnets on them and 2 fishing rods per team. They use the fishing rods to catch a fish and then decide whether it is a native/good fish or a feral/bad fish and either place it in a pond (which is a bucket of water) or on the bank (which is a bucket full of sand). Once they have fished the pond dry you tally up the fish and see which team is the winner.

Let them get loud!! This is after all a competition, so I get the kids yelling out which fish is native/good and which is feral/bad and they start out in two neat little lines and within a minute all the kids are all screaming out what each has caught and racing the other team to catch the most fish.

Once the activity has been completed, I take the whole class back over to the original pond that they were fishing out of and ask them what is wrong. Someone ALWAYS quickly says ‘there is no fish’ so they then decide to put the good fish back in the pond.

The impact

It is great having a good hands on activity, but it is also important to have a strong take home message. The take home message with this activity was solid for all age groups. These messages included, the difference between a native/good and feral/bad fish and how to recognize them, what to do with a feral/bad fish if you catch them and why you must leave them on the bank, and also it is okay to catch a couple of fish but if you don’t put any back there will be no fish left! Those children who you had an effect on WILL tell their parents about good fish and bad fish. Those children who regularly go fishing with their parents will tell their parents that they should do something about the bad fish that they catch and that it is okay to do so – this makes it easier for parents to talk with their children about why they are using the methods that they are using to dispatch the bad fish.

Key facts

  • Keep your information and activity relevant to the age group that you are working with.
  • Let the children do a lot of guessing and asking questions.
  • Hands on activities are good but they are great if you have a strong take home message.