In the case of children’s events, it was valuable to combine some active movement with more sedentary discussion and reflection time. A variety of games were created by NFS Coordinators which proved effective and fun. These games were designed to highlight key ecological requirements of native fish species, the effects of particular threats and the value of rehabilitations activities.
The games were adapted to cater to each occasion or context, depending on which fish species occurred in a particular area, and which issues were significant. The level of sophistication of a game could also be adapted, depending on the age group of the children. While largely targeted at school children, adults were often known to participate in games. The main feature of all the games was to get people involved and moving!
A bit of imagination was all that was needed to replicate components of a fish’s habitat and threats. For example:
- a scattering of wood, sticks and leaves could easily demonstrate woody structure within a river.
- plastic aquarium plants or even green streamers could replicate aquatic vegetation.
- foam balls of varying sizes or ping pong balls could represent fish eggs.
- larger foam balls (sprayed with different colours) could demonstrate pebbles and rocks
- shredded newspaper or dark coloured streamers could represent silt
- pieces of blue plastic, blue paper, plastic kids’ scallop shell pools, and small blow up pools could replicate pools of water of varying sizes
- kids’ tents and tunnels could represent hollow logs and refuges for fish
- a piece of thick foam, a circular piece of fabric or a small dog’s bed could represent a catfish nest.
Games usually involved a member of the NFS team setting the scene. A brief outline of each fish species’ biology, habitat needs and the impacts of threats would be provided. Children would then take on the identity of particular fish, often with great enthusiasm. A variety of methods were used for participants to become their local fish species. These could be as simple as having laminated photos of species to hang around the neck or clip to a shirt. More inventive approaches included laminated catfish swords!
Many interesting interactions then ensued with species such as Catfish, Murray cod or Macquarie perch trying to find suitable habitats to breed in while protecting their eggs from predators and silt. Gambusia would take pleasure in fin nipping the native species. Redfin would steal eggs, sometimes using a spoon to make it more difficult. Creating several nests or spawning sites to be defended allowed an element of competition and further excitement for children.
In 2006, during the Central Murray Environment Festival in Kerang and Swan Hill, the first simple fish headbands were created. Posters were placed at different locations which outlined particular ecological facts about fish species. Children had to read these facts and then swim over (metaphorically speaking!) to sites which matched these details. CST members, NFS coordinators and teachers did not escape wearing the attractive head gear. Over the years, these ‘fish heads’ proved a great success, although sustained some injuries. In 2011, more substantial and professionally produced headgear were created, which added extra drama and fun to a range of activities.
Fish Passage Game
Some games focussed on very specific threats such as barriers to fish passage. A brief outline could be provided to explain the importance of fish passage, why, when and how far fish move. A line of children could then represent a barrier, through which a few children could try and pass. Such a simple game could effectively demonstrate this concept to children.
A range of games and activities can be accessed here.