PRATT — Pratt High School environmental science students experienced hands-on learning on Sep. 24 when the two classes of 33 students total went to Lemon Park to learn about biodiversity in the local ecosystems by electrofishing.

Environmental science teacher Jacob Schaefer said this experience helped students fully understand about biodiversity and the impact certain fish have on the biodiversity of an ecosystem.

“I wanted to get them outside so they could experience environmental science in reality,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer took both of his Environmental Science classes to Pratt's Lemon Park where the Ninnescah River flows, and the students were led by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Recreation employees Ryan Waters, Mark Van Scoyoc, Jeff Seim, Ariel Snyder, and McKenzie Zielke.

Electrofishing is done by using a generator on a boat to put electricity into the water using anodes.

“Three kids had metal poles called anodes that put electricity into the water,” Schaefer explained. “The electricity caused the fish to float to the top and they get them in the net.“

They then took the fish to a cooler in the boat.

Later, the students were able to study the types of fish they caught, and identify which were native, and which were invasive fish.

Many fish were invasive species.

“They actually don’t belong in our rivers,” Schaefer said. “When they caught an invasive species, (KWPT employees) threw them on the bank, since they were killing the native fish.“

Fish like the bass they encountered are not native to this area and are harmful to the natural environment, Shaefer said.

“A lot of the kids got very upset, because they’re used to catching bass, but even the stuff we’re familiar with can be detrimental to the natural environment," he said. “We talked about why biodiversity is important. I think they enjoyed it.“

The class learned about multiple aspects of biodiversity, such as the economical factors. Back in the classroom, they spent time talking about why killing to invasive species was necessary and appropriate, since it upset some of the students.

“The class is the study of the world and the environment,” Schaefer said, “I wanted them to experience it in reality.”