Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Trout are Here...Almost

(Connecticut Council of Trout Unlimited:  Click the link above for more information on this great program.)

Setting up a trout tank was sure an experience.  Last Monday morning I found a filter and various other tools (still trying to figure out what they are) outside of my door (Thank you Mrs. Mancher).  I was so excited to get started.  The plan was to get this thing together on Monday and Tuesday, fill the tank with water, get the chiller going, drop the water temperature to 46 degrees fahrenheit and get those fish eggs in our tank by Wednesday.

The first major question was how to fill this tank.  The sink is about ten feet from the tank.  A five gallon bucket will not fit under the faucet.  A garbage can will not fit either.  I look to the tank and see extra tubing from the filter.  Aha!  The excess tubing became a hose and we could fill five to seven gallons at a time.  Success!  I had some help from a group of students who offered their assistance.

Well, Wednesday morning was sure an experience.  I waited to turn the filter and chiller on until I had expert help from Mr. Stentiford.  We primed the filter, turned it on and...water started pouring out of the sides.  We scrambled to turn the filter off.  Looking at the filter, I realized that I put the "o" ring on in the wrong spot, so there was not a secure seal.  Okay, we got that straightened out.  Now as a famous Connecticut actor once said in his self-proclaimed favorite role of his career,  "We're back in business."

The filter was working with no water pouring out until...water begins to pour down on us from above.  Being partially underneath the table, I had no idea where it was coming from.  My back and head were soaked!  The water level in the tank was not high enough so the part of the filter that puts the water back into the tank started to shoot water over the top of the tank.   At least this was an easy fix, but we were wet for the rest of the day.

I told this story to the students.  All of the action happened before school, but it was important for them to know that this whole production is a brand new learning experience for me.  Mistakes and problems will happen.  The greater learning occurs when you are able to find a problem, reflect on the problem, and work towards a solution.  I had a video to watch to put the filter together.  I watched every step and still made a simple mistake.  Seeking out help from teachers, friends, colleagues, or experts in the field is so important when learning something new.  You cannot rely just on yourself.  Linda Darling-Hammond, in her book Powerful Learning, provides an example of a research study that states:

In one comparison by Zhining Qin, David Johnson, and Roger Johnson, of four types of categories for problems presented to individuals and cooperative teams, researchers found that teams outperformed individuals on all types and across all ages. Results varied by how well defined the problems were (a single right answer versus open-ended solutions, such as writing a story) and how much they relied on language. Several experimental studies have shown that groups outperform individuals on learning tasks and that individuals who work in groups do better on later individual assessments.

Students need a variety of learning methods.  Learning how to work effectively with peers and how to seek out help from adults will greatly increase their learning and knowledge.  I have seen significant student growth in cooperative learning this year.

We all make mistakes. We all learn some kind of lesson when we reflect on those mistakes. We all need to learn strategies to help alleviate or even fix those mistakes.  I continue to learn how everyday. Thank you to my fantastic students and colleagues!

Back to the tank.

The tank was full, the filter was filtering, and the chiller was chilling and set to the correct temperature.

What about the eggs?

Stay tuned.  Their story is next.

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