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Caring for an aquarium can be a very rewarding hobby for young children. A fish tank allows them to experience one kind of nature right in their own classroom or home. The glass of the tank is like a window to another world - a look under the surface of a lake or stream.

In the Athens 1 classroom of Bradford-Tioga Head Start, Inc. teacher, Katie Place encourages science activities. And the fish tank is just one of them! She feels that there are many aspects of Science that can be learned when aquariums are included in a classroom. “One of our classroom jobs is the Marine Biologist,” said Miss Katie. “This is the person who gets to feed the fish!”

A new addition was recently made to the Athens 1 aquarium – an algae eater or bottom feeder. The children had many questions! They wondered if the new fish would get along like Head Start Heroes. They wondered what and how it would eat, which initiated a lesson on algae. And oh were they surprised to see the fish against the side of the aquarium with its mouth wide open!

Next, the children began to wonder if fish sleep, breathe under water, grow, stay alive, and communicate. They wondered if all fish go under water, and how they swim.  All of this curiosity  prompted research about the characteristics and habits of fish. It was a GREAT teachable moment!

But, by far, the biggest benefit of having fish in an aquarium as well as other classroom pets, is that it fosters compassion in the children. It becomes an opportunity to teach them about respect for nature, animals, the environment and even other people. They learn about caring for living creatures and  about the responsibility for their care; for example the fish need to be fed and the tank needs to be regularly maintained. When the children learn compassion for fish under their care they are more likely to grow up to adults who are more aware of their surroundings, their actions, and how they affect the world.

Photo Caption:       Bella and Hunter, two children enrolled in the Athens 1 classroom of Bradford-Tioga Head Start, Inc., observing how the two classroom fish reacted to the new fish.