The Transformative Power of Environmental Education: A Fish Funeral Story - Cahaba River Society

Successful environmental education programs spark wonder, curiosity, and a deep connection with the natural world. The Shane Hulsey CLEAN  Environmental Education Program is such a program. It nurtures a love for the environment and instills a sense of responsibility in future generations. It provides experiences that leave a lasting impact on students’ hearts and minds.

A recent fish assessment activity led to a deeply moving experience that had a profound impact on a student, ultimately reinforcing the importance of CLEAN.

The Fish Assessment Activity

One of our CLEAN bio-assessment activities involves taking students to the river to collect fish. A student named Chris joined us with his class on a recent trip. He had never considered the significance of a river’s habitat. In fact, he’d never been to a river before.

Chris’ class worked as a team using a large seine net, catching an abundance of fish. The students were taught to handle the fish with care, ensuring they were gently transported to a bucket for later observation. However, in the midst of the excitement, a few fish were inadvertently handled too firmly and succumbed to the stress.

The Fish Funeral

When Chris saw one fish that wasn’t faring well, he was overcome with a sense of sadness and empathy for a wild creature that he had never felt before. He suggested that we hold a funeral for the fish. Even though time was pressing, it was clear that this was an opportunity to deepen his newfound connection to the natural world. So, with the river as our backdrop, we gathered in silence, paying our respects to the tiny fish. After a few moments of reflection, we gently released the fish back into the river.

Chris said that this simple experience changed him. He’d been completely disconnected from the river and its inhabitants, but his connection with this little fish kindled a new passion within him. He asked how he could work in conservation and teach others how to protect the environment, from the towering trees to the tiniest fish.


This heartwarming story exemplifies why programs like CLEAN are so vital. Environmental education has the power to transform lives and shape the future. It can turn indifference into a lifelong commitment to conservation and a deep respect for the environment. The ripple effect of this experience will undoubtedly inspire others to connect with nature, creating a generation of passionate environmental stewards.