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Fillet Day Provides Hands-On Learning | Ohio Sea Grant

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Fillet Day Provides Hands-On Learning

12:00 pm, Wed May 29, 2024 – Ohio Sea Grant assisted with Fish Fillet Day at Dublin-Jerome High School, where students closed out an annual cycle of raising fish in the classroom

Dublin, Ohio Central Ohio high school students experienced hands-on learning with fish this month thanks to the efforts of a teacher inspired by Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory.

In Ashley Dulin-Smith’s environmental sustainability and societies class at Dublin-Jerome High School in Dublin, Ohio, students spent all school year learning how to sustainably raise fish in classroom aquaponics tanks. Then, on May 7, the cycle came to a close with the class’s third-annual Fish Fillet Day.

With instruction from Tory Gabriel, Ohio Sea Grant extension program leader, students learned how to harvest and process their own fish. For most, it was their very first time handling fish.

Watch a video about Fillet Day and Ohio Sea Grant’s role.

“The kids are excited,” Dulin-Smith said. “They look forward to this day, and they’re given an experience that they’ve never had before.”

“We want them to know that fish is a good, healthy protein source, it’s fun to eat, fun to catch, and even more rewarding when you can do it yourself,” Gabriel said. “We’re giving them a firsthand experience of how to do that.”

For Dulin-Smith, who has taught at Dublin-Jerome since 2013, the concept of “learning by doing” is integral to her teaching style — in part informed by taking an immersive workshop for environmental educators at Stone Laboratory in 2016. Dulin-Smith gained hands-on field experience on Gibraltar Island with Ohio Sea Grant Education Specialists Lyndsey Manzo and Angela Greene through their Water and Wildlife Training for Educators.

people gathered around a table with a piece of fish

Ashley Dulin-Smith, right, teacher at Dublin-Jerome High School, helps a student prepare a fish fillet alongside Tory Gabriel, center, Ohio Sea Grant program extension leader.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone from the minute I got there,” said Dulin-Smith, who ended up returning to Stone Lab for two additional trainings. “It pushed me to become a better educator, and from that experience I met a ton of different teachers from around the state.”

In her classroom, Dulin-Smith started a program where students spend the school year raising fish like yellow perch and bluegill in tanks of water that can grow vegetables, combining aquaculture and hydroponics. Students also feed worms from the classroom’s compost bins to the fish, creating a sustainable cycle.

“We start out the beginning of the year discussing how these fish are not class pets, that they’re here to help us grow food, and how to be sustainable with our farming methods,” she said. “We also use it to teach the nitrogen cycle, so students can understand a little bit about how that impacts the water, and then they can take that out into the real world.”

“It introduced me to a different way of learning than just textbooks and assignments. It’s really the hands-on that got me interested in the different ways that you can do science.”
Kristen Slack, Dublin-Jerome High School Senior

At the end of each school year, students learn how to harvest the fish to complete the cycle. In 2022, thanks to her Ohio Sea Grant connections, Dulin-Smith contacted Gabriel and asked him to visit the class and demonstrate proper fish cleaning. This year, representatives from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium attended to assist with the process.

“I thought it was a great fit,” Gabriel said. “One of our most important roles at Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab is providing outdoor education not only just to youth but adults as well. Anytime you get the opportunity to have a new experience is great, and when you can tie that into the environment and Lake Erie specifically, I think that really is one of our key roles.”

After successfully preparing the fish with Gabriel, students in the class participated in a fish fry the following day to taste their product. Students rated how they liked the fish, with most assigning it the rating “love it.”

2014 Frank Lichtkoppler Retirement

In Dulin-Smith’s environmental sustainability and societies class, students spend the whole school year raising fish in aquaponics tanks that can also raise vegetables.

The interactivity in Dulin-Smith’s classroom has encouraged students to take an interest in environmental science after high school. Present at Fillet Day were two Dublin-Jerome seniors who took Dulin-Smith’s classes, became interested in science, and now assist her as “peer collaborators.” They both plan to study science in college.

One student, Tara D’Souza, said getting to work outdoors and grow fish in Dulin-Smith’s class helped her decide to study environmental science in college. She plans to attend Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the fall.

“I knew since I was little that I liked going outside, and I’ve always been somebody who wants to help things,” D’Souza said. “Environmental science opened up a whole different world for me.”

Another student, Kristen Slack, said she enjoyed the way Dulin-Smith taught biology and environmental science and “fell in love” with the subject matter. Now, she plans to study microbiology in college.

“I loved all the different activities and styles of learning that she did,” she said. “It introduced me to a different way of learning than just textbooks and assignments. It’s really the hands-on that got me interested in the different ways that you can do science.”

Dulin-Smith said interest in the class has grown over the years, and she plans to continue the fish program into the future.

“As an educator, you want to give your kids the opportunity to do things that they’ve never done before to have an impact,” she said. “So I think this is giving students an opportunity to find a passion.”

Ohio Sea Grant is supported by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, and NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 34 Sea Grant programs nation-wide dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. Stone Laboratory is Ohio State’s island campus on Lake Erie and is the research, education, and outreach facility of Ohio Sea Grant and part of CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources.

ARTICLE TITLE: Fillet Day Provides Hands-On Learning PUBLISHED: 12:00 pm, Wed May 29, 2024
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