An international team led by Swansea University has come up with a novel way of teaching youngsters about fish migration.
It created a fun comic and music video featuring a lyric poem charting a fish’s journey, which has not only been a hit with youngsters but also fellow academics.
Now a paper detailing the project, which is aimed at children aged from eight to 14, has not only appeared in prestigious online journal People and Nature, it has also been highlighted as one of publisher Wiley’s Research Headlines this month.
Lead author Merryn Thomas is part of the University’s Freshwater Interdisciplinary Research and Engagement Laboratory (FIRE Lab) which explores young peoples’ relationships with freshwater environments.
Migratory fish populations are declining due to pressures including climate change, pollution, and fragmentation caused by dams and other structures, so the team wanted to find an effective way to engage people with what is a hard-to-see and complex environmental topic.
The project saw Dr Thomas and her colleagues Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Daphne Giannoulatou and Peter Jones working with American cartoonist Ethan Kocak along with Wes Tank and Ryan Sarnowski, of TankThink, a creative production team based in Milwaukee.
The end result is designed to not only entertain and engage but also enrich learning about migratory fishes and aquatic environments.
Dr Thomas said: “We’re very passionate about fresh waters here at FIRE Lab. We wanted to explain about fish migration in an educational and informative way, and think we achieved this through our interdisciplinary collaboration with passionate creatives and academics.
“We also learned a lot about co-creation along the way, which we hope will be useful for others who are interested in collaborating across boundaries to design inspiring engagement materials for young people about our natural environments.”
In their paper the team detailed the creative process behind the video including conception of ideas, writing the poem, fact-checking and developing the storyline as well as touching on the impact that Covid-19 had on the collaboration.
The authors now hope that sharing their experiences and reflections will be useful and inspiring for those who aim to create other materials about ecological processes and environmental issues for young people. They also look forward to using Shout Trout as part of wider freshwater engagement with local school children in 2022.