- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) - It was a bittersweet experience as students released nearly 100 trout fingerlings in the Red River Gorge last week.

Students in Elizabeth Scalia’s third-grade class at St. Agatha Academy raised the trout from eggs as part of the Trout in the Classroom initiative before releasing them in Indian Creek.

Trout in the Classroom is a conservation-oriented environmental education program for elementary, middle and high school students offered through Trout Unlimited.

Throughout the school year, students raise trout from eggs to 3- to 4-inch fingerlings which are released in approved cold water streams and lakes.

Scalia said her class started with around 200 eggs this year, which is the second year she’s incorporated the program in her class.

“Last year we didn’t do as well,” Scalia said. “This year, we have close to 100 left.”

Scalia said she decided to include Trout in the Classroom in her curriculum after a Trout Unlimited volunteer visited the school.

Trout Unlimited Bluegrass Chapter Education Director Sandy Broughman said Winchester resident Dick Brantigan suggested bringing the program to the school.

“Dick lives in Winchester and had been around the school,” Broughman said. “He knew about the trout program we were doing at other places in Central Kentucky. He volunteered to mentor at the school. We took some Trout Unlimited money and Dick donated some of his own money and we set their aquarium up.”

Broughman said the program begins in the fall, when trout eggs are brought to the school.

Within a couple of weeks, the eggs will begin to hatch into alevin.

“At this point, their yolk sacs are still attached,” he said. “They’ll consume the yolk over the next little bit, and eventually swim toward the top of the tank.”

Students begin feeding the trout and help raise them until they can be release.

Before the trout are released, students participate in a field biology class in which they capture and identify macro-invertebrates in order to determine the quality of the stream’s water.

The whole program is designed to teach students about the importance of cold water streams and water quality.

“Trout Unlimited is a national organization that is dedicated to conserving cold water streams,” Broughman said. “We wanted to bring attention to the children that cold water streams are important to the ecology of the whole planet. … We want people to understand that you have to have healthy cold water streams before you get warm water streams.”

Students also learn about water conservation and how that affects humans, Scalia said.

“We learn that if you don’t keep the water clean, the trout will die,” she said. “That affects us on a larger scale. They learn that if there is not clean water, we might not be able to live.”

Broughman said with lessons like these, he hopes some students will develop a passion for science.

“We think that what we’re doing is raising awareness to children and parents about the need for good, clean cold water,” he said.

Through the field biology class, students learn about different types of food sources for the trout. Instructors emphasize that if conditions of the water aren’t good enough to sustain the most sensitive of the trouts’ food sources, the trout won’t survive either.

Broughman said he’s consistently surprised at how focused and attentive the students are.

Scalia’s students said they were excited to watch the fish grow to be different sizes, and to have the chance to name the fish, particularly the largest trout, School Bus.

After one rainy day, students collected earth worms to feed the trout, and said they enjoyed watching them feed.

Others were most excited to witness the tiny fish swim out of the net after hatching.

Some students said they were excited to release the trout because of the noisy filtration system in the classroom, while others weren’t quite ready to bid their fishy friends farewell.

“Some of (the students) get sad when they have to release them and watch them swim away,” Scalia said.


Information from: The Winchester (Ky.) Sun, https://www.centralkynews.com/winchestersun

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