May 12, 2011
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
“Awesome!” shouted a Carlisle student as trout raised in the Trout in the Classroom program were released into the Smith River on Wednesday.
The release at the Bassett canoe access was one of the 30 releases scheduled in May. Thirty-nine students were present for the release of the trout, which they have raised since December in a 55-gallon tank set up in their classroom. They raised them from eggs to trout that are the size of a person’s finger.
The students get to see the eggs hatch and the yolk sack that is attached to the fish to feed on while their mouths are developing. Once their mouths develop, the students feed the trout dead fish and plant material. They also must monitor the water quality during the entire process.
“Trout need cold, clean water to survive,” said Brian Williams, program manager for the Dan River Basin Association. He also said that once in the river, only about 1 percent of the trout usually survive, so it is important to release them into clean water.
The students learn how pollutants can affect the life of the trout.
“You have to keep it (the tank) clean. If the water is dirty, they might die,” said third-grader Ceci Simpson.
“I learned that the trout are really fragile,” said fourth-grader Priyansi Patel. “You have to keep the water clean, feed them daily and take really good care of them.”
Parker Smith, a third-grade teacher at Carlisle, said the Trout in the Classroom program connects the students to a “Water Water Everywhere” unit that she teaches. The unit teaches that people have to share the planet and what happens to rivers here affects the water that travels elsewhere, she said.
Fourth-grade teacher Rachel Catoe said Trout in the Classroom helps students connect to the environment and habitats curriculum that she teaches. The curriculum teaches “how habitats are different, how we can keep things clean and growing and keep our rivers populated,” Catoe said.
Thanks to the Trout in the Classroom program, “I’ve never seen so much excitement in education before,” Williams said.
“We want to teach kids about the environment and why it’s important to protect it, particularly clean river and streams,” Williams said. “The program is connecting students to their local watershed.”
The Trout in the Classroom program is in its sixth year and now has 31 tanks in schools in Henry, Pittsylvania, Franklin and Patrick counties.
The program has been in existence for 25 years and was introduced in 2005 in Virginia when Dr. David Jones brought it to this area. There now are 161 tanks throughout the state.
The program has research uses as well as educational ones. “We use the trout as an indicator species of the health of the stream,” Williams said.
The trout feed on macroinvertebrates, which include mayflies and stoneflies, he said. Williams and his team of researchers use macroinvertebrates to rate the water quality because macroinvertebrates are pollution intolerant.
“If you have a lot of trout, then you have a lot of macroinvertebrates in the river, which means that you have a pretty healthy stream,” Williams said.
He said that each class starts out with 250 eggs, but usually not that many survive. He was surprised at how many fish the Carlisle students had and how big they were.
Third-grader Olivia Aaron said her favorite part of releasing the trout was “to see them get in a school of fish and move downstream.”
“If the kids can connect to their environment in a special way — and Trout in the Classroom does that — then they are more likely to protect it,” Williams said.
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