RALEIGH — The Shad in the Classroom  program was piloted in 2008 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to introduce students from two Wake County Schools — Lead Mine Elementary and Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School — to a species of importance and the restoration efforts currently underway in North Carolina. With the added involvement of employees from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences beginning in late 2009, the number of participating schools had grown to 20 this past spring. Because of this boost to the program, the Museum was recognized with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director’s Conservation Award at a ceremony in May.
The award recognizes outstanding partners for their contributions to furthering the agency’s mission. According to the award, Museum staff “saw the potential to engage students in an authentic conservation project that connects them to the natural world and enhances their scientific literacy.” Lynn Cross, a Museum educator who assisted in the development of the program, attended the ceremony held in Atlanta and accepted the award on behalf of the Museum.
The Shad in the Classroom program is designed to help restock the Roanoke River with American shad, an important and once-abundant species that has been radically depleted in recent decades due to overfishing, the construction of dams and increased levels of run-off pollution. As part of the program, teachers participated in a workshop at the Museum where they learned how to monitor and raise shad in on-site hatchery tanks constructed and fine tuned by Museum staff. Then over a five-day period, their students maintained the tanks and watched the eggs mature into releasable “fry” (young fish). On day five, students and teachers took the fry to various sites along the Roanoke River and released them.
At the ceremony, Museum staff were also recognized for being instrumental in finding grant and partnership opportunities to fund the program; overseeing development of the teacher workshop and the recruitment of new schools into the program; and overseeing the building and supplying of shad hatcheries, as well as redesigning the hatcheries to cost less so more schools could participate in the program.
Additional financial support for the program was provided by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Dominion Virginia Power.