Total Time: 8 to 15 hours (time will vary according to individual progress)
• Sharpen observation skills;
• Build trainees' confidence in their ability to learn independently through their own observation and deductive reasoning;
• Give trainees opportunity to identify their own perspectives, habits and biases in observing something for the first time;
• Begin developing an eye for various physical characteristics of a pond system;
• Familiarize trainees with work area.
Overview: Up until this point, sessions have been designed to orient the trainees, prepare them for the program and help them set broad goals for training. This is the first actual technical exercise in the program. The trainees will be required to make very thorough and detailed observations of the entire pond system area and to record those observations in an organized way. They will have the opportunity to try to draw connections and conclusions about what they observe. In addition to learning about the system, they will develop many questions about fish ponds and aquaculture that they will be encouraged to write down and explore over the course of training.
Trainer Note: If trainees have not yet received their training notebooks (empty binder, paper, dividers), they should receive them before beginning this exercise. The trainer should stress that the notebook should be built into an extremely valuable resource for the trainee to take overseas. The trainee should think of it as a comprehensive textbook that he/she will write for him/herself.
1. Instructions are given to the trainees individually. Instructions may be given at the classroom or wherever the trainee is at the point of completing the previous exercise. The trainee receives the following instructions:
• You will be given directions to the pond area, and the boundaries in which you are to work will be specified;
• Please investigate this area very carefully, record all of your observations in detail, and make comments on what you see. Use diagrams when appropriate;
• A trainer will check with you from time to time to see how you are progressing;
• Please remember that this is an individual training activity. (Refer to discussion of individual training that took place during the Expectations session).
When giving instructions, the trainer should also include any restrictions (i.e. do not enter buildings, do not throw switches, etc.) as appropriate, and any necessary warnings (i.e. there are poisonous snakes in the area, bring drinking water, etc.). Once the instructions have been given, the trainer directs the trainee to the pond area.
8 to 15 hours
2. Trainees work independently in the field, making their observations and notes, and eventually receiving input and guidance from trainers. Trainers are out in the field observing the trainees, but should not interfere with them unless a trainee needs to be reminded of a given restriction or is in danger of harming him/herself or a piece of equipment. When a trainee who has been working for quite a long time and writing down a lot of notes appears to have slowed down or reached a block in his/her thinking, the trainer approaches and asks to see the trainee's notes. This is the point at which the trainer must exercise judgement in determining how much guidance to give the trainee.
The number of times the trainer confers with the trainee over the course of the observations will vary, and at some point, the trainer will determine that the trainee has done a thorough and complete enough job to move on to the next exercise. The attached list of observations can serve as a guideline, though it is not imperative that every single point on the list be included in the trainee's notes as long as the appropriate level of detail has been reached in most areas and all general categories have been noted. A map of the ponds is required.
3. The trainee completes the exercise and is given directions for moving on to the next step. The trainer has a short discussion with the trainee during which the amount of work the trainee has done should be acknowledged, and the trainee is encouraged to recognize the amount of progress that he/she has made. It should be made clear that although the trainee has done a good job of making increasingly thorough observations, he/she has not necessarily seen all there is to see and will probably continue to see and learn more as experience is gained working at the ponds. The trainee is then told that the observation notes will be the first section of the training notebook. The trainee is instructed to put the notes into a neat and organized form so that they will be useful in the future. The notes are to be turned in the following day for the staff to look over, then returned to the trainee to be put in the notebook. At this point, the trainer guides the trainee to the next step.
• Notebooks, pens;
• Insect repellent (if appropriate);
• A pond system that includes several ponds, a water supply and a drainage system. The more variety and features the area provides, the richer the exercise will be. Different types of water sources, ponds of different sizes and construction, a variety of soil types and vegetation, and support facilities such as holding tanks, settling tanks, etc. all add to the value of this activity. A few other suggestions: Have some ponds full and stocked with fish, some full of water but without fish, some empty and dry. Fertilize some ponds several days prior to the exercise, fill others shortly before the exercise so there will be a variety of water colors due to different levels of plankton blooms. Have a few pieces of equipment such as seines, cast nets or cages in sight. If possible, ponds should have examples of different types of inlets or drainage structures such as sluices, standpipes or monks.
• This exercise serves as an initial transition to the methodology employed by the training program. For most trainees, the way learning occurs in training is a departure from their previous educational experiences. The assignment often seems ambiguous to the trainees, and some will feel overwhelmed as they begin the task. Although they will not receive direct input or verification from trainers on the accuracy or completeness of their observations or conclusions, trainers will provide some guidance regarding each trainee's approach to the task. As they work, they will notice improvements in their own observation skills. While some will be frustrated initially, trainees discover a great deal about their own strengths and skills and gain confidence in their ability to learn independently;
• Prior to going into the field, each trainer should have previously been assigned certain trainees with whom he/she will work throughout this exercise. To avoid confusing trainees, trainers should not provide guidance to trainees to whom another trainer has been assigned unless the trainee has a specific logistical question. If a trainer has to leave the area, he/she should bring another trainer up to date on the progress of the trainees with whom he/she has been working so that the other trainer can take over effectively. Consistency among trainers is critical to ensure a positive, supportive process;
• There are many ways in which the trainer may give the trainee guidance, and the type and amount of help given will depend on several factors, including the amount of information the trainee has already accumulated, the depth of detail of that information, and the confidence level and enthusiasm of the trainee. The trainer should be creative in using analogies and other techniques to help the trainee find a way to continue the exercise. Some possibilities and suggestions:
• Often the trainee has stopped "seeing" things because he/she is looking at the area from a limited perspective. For example, a geology major may have made a thorough survey of soil types, but may have completely missed the variety of vegetation, the fish in the ponds, or a net lying on the bank. A biology major may have diagrammed every plant, tree and insect, but not even noticed the plumbing system. In this situation, the trainer can help make the trainee aware of his/her "bias" by asking that individual how a plumber, farmer, real estate agent, zoologist, etc. might describe the same area;
• Some trainees get caught up in details and miss the "big picture". For example, they may overlook the general topography of the area or the fact that there is a system rather than several independent ponds. Other times, just the opposite is true. In the first case, encourage the trainee to "zoom out", or ask the trainee to imagine that he/she has been hired by a potential buyer in another state who is counting on the description the trainee will provide to determine exactly what the area looks like. In the latter case, where more detail is needed, choose one thing in the trainee's notes, perhaps a drainage structure or individual pond, and ask the trainee to provide enough detail for someone to be able to build a similar drainage structure or pond from those notes, or to see exactly what the trainee sees, without actually having to visit the site;
• In some cases, the trainee will have a tremendous amount of information, but in such a scattered form that he/she does not recognize relationships or has major gaps. Here, the trainer should encourage the trainee to organize the notes and to categorize the observations in a logical way;
• Often trainees who do not have a science background feel that they are at a disadvantage and lack confidence in their ability to see what they think they should see, or make sense of their observations. A trainer can help by pointing out the progress the trainee has made over the course of the exercise and giving some reassurance of the value of the observations that have been made so far;
• Important! Trainers must remember that this is an exercise in observation, not a test of knowledge in aquaculture. While trainees should be encouraged to think about what they see, try to draw some conclusions and make connections, it is not necessary that they understand the function of everything they see or draw only correct conclusions at this stage. While a trainee who majored in aquaculture may know the correct terminology for and functions of certain structures or equipment, other trainees will not. A caution here is that the trainer must not give the impression that speculations made by the trainees are correct, but should just encourage the trainees to write down their questions and ideas so that they can refer back to them later as more knowledge and experience is accumulated.
Sample list of observations that reflect the level of expected detail:
Dike sides are sloped
Pond bottoms are sloped
Water depth at shallow and deep ends
Drain at deep end
Pond size at ground level, water level and in bottom of pond
Water depth in various ponds
Depth from bottom to ground level in various ponds
The site is on slope, direction of slope
Certain places around ponds have been built up
Grass is planted on dikes, type of vegetation on banks
Grass or other vegetation on pond bottom
There are a variety of soil types (colors, textures, sand, clay)
Dikes in some ponds eroding
Cracking in the bottom of some dry ponds
• Water System
Pump (all specifications on labels)
Where tubes go in, where tubes go out
Motor unit is separate from pump unit
Various tools in pump house
Construction of pump house
Grease on grease points
Location of inlet piping in each pond
Location of valves, how valves work
Pipe material and size
Source of water
Depth and width of canal
Location in ponds
Type and size of pipe
Main system outlet locations
Drainage area and canals
Description of drainage device
Birds, other predators or signs of them
Distance to town, roads
Directions (north, south, east, west)
• Individual ponds (for each pond)
Presence of fish
Depth of water
Films and debris on surface
Presence of other animal life
Erosion/vegetation on banks.