School of fish: Salmon eggs hatch at Tignish Elementary

Students at Tignish Elementary School are learning the ropes of aquaculture by watching salmon grow and develop.

'Tignish being ... a fishing community, I think it's something that they can easily relate to,' principal says

Students at Tignish Elementary were busy looking at the recently hatched salmon on Wednesday. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

The fish tank at the Tignish Elementary School might appear empty, but if you look closely, inside are more than 100 tiny and freshly hatched salmon. 

"It's pretty cool to come into school each morning and you can look into the tank and see salmon," said Matthew Perry, who's in Grade 6. 

His classmate Camden Gallant agreed.

"My favourite part about having salmon in school would probably be getting to go down and see them every day," he said. 

The school received fish eggs from Abegweit First Nation last month — and this isn't the first time. According to principal Mark Ellsworth, the school helps hatch fish eggs every spring as a way to teach students about aquaculture.

"Tignish being ... a fishing community, I think it's something that they can easily relate to and take part in at a young age," said Ellsworth. 

"I think that any time you have an opportunity to have kids learn real-life experiences, it makes reading make a lot more sense. It makes the writing make a lot more sense." 

'Pretty excited'

For weeks, students used a flashlight to peer into the tank and decipher what was an egg and what was a pebble. But over the March break, the eggs hatched. 

"Well, they were pretty excited and they were wondering, you know, how fast that they were going to grow and wanting to know if they all made it," he said. 

"They know that there is going to be times that not all the fish are going to make it."

'Students learn at an early age that they have a part to play in our fishery here on the Island and keeping our waterways clean,' says school principal Mike Ellsworth. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

Now students are responsible for monitoring and caring for the salmon.

"They just hatched and they just came out of their shell and they're still living off the yolk underneath them," said Matthew, who wants to be a fisherman. 

"Every morning we come and check the temperature and feed them and make sure they're alive and healthy."

Released into the wild

Eventually, the fish will be too big to keep at Tignish Elementary, although that is still a few months away. 

"What we will do is we'll get some advice ... as to where it would be best to release these fish," said Ellsworth. 

"Of course, there's a little bit of anticipation as to how they're going to get along out there."

Grade 6 student Parker Gaudet says he is looking forward to releasing the fish when PEI's water is warm enough. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

Grade 6 student Parker Gaudet is looking forward to release day. 

"Getting to release them knowing that there's going to be more and ... there might even be more around at fishing season," he said. 

"I think it's probably going to help the numbers." 

Until then, the students will continue to share their school with the fish and watch as they grow. 

"Even though they may be young and small, they still have a big part to play in the environment," said Ellsworth. 

"This, I think, is one of the initial learning grounds for them to learn that." 


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