Fingerling trout head for open spaces
Eyed trout eggs were received from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission around Thanksgiving and put in a 55-gallon aquarium in Beth Harwick’s sixth-grade classroom at Northwestern until they reached the fingerling stage of growth — about two inches long.
This was the final step in the Trout in the Classroom program sponsored by Nestles Water.
Harwick said other teachers helped care for the fish, but she came in three times over Christmas vacation.
On May 5, the class went to Ontelaunee Park where they learned about macroinvertebrates and then released the fish into the creek. Only 1 percent to 2 percent will survive to adulthood.
The caddis, may and stone flies born in the creek used mud casks, looking like small stones and attached to larger stones, as a birthplace.
Michael Rodriguez and Rebecca Kann, Nestle communicators, admired the crayfish, the largest animal usually found and put in pans for the students to see.
John Leibold said they should name their fish before turning them loose. He is a native of New Tripoli and comes out every year to help. The three people caught the fingerlings and placed them in cups.
They had been kept in aerated coolers with generators used to keep the water moving and healthy.
Eric Andreus, natural resources manager for Nestlé Waters North America Inc., was helping the students learn about the macroinvertebrates. He has been involved in the program every year.
Students had petri dishes to hold animals under a microscope. There were also magnifying glasses. A chart showed each of the animals expected to be found in the Ontelaunee and how much pollution they could tolerate and still survive.
Aquatic insects provide food for the fingerling fish. Students were assured none of the macroinvertebrates would bite but the crayfish might pinch. However, when students gave them an opportunity to pinch, they found it was mild, not painful.
Urging them to look through the microscopes, Nestle’s Jillian Olsen said they were “really cool under the microscopes.”
“Has everyone handled a crayfish that wants to handle a crayfish?” Andreus asked.
Then, it was time for fun and games and they changed places with the other students.
The first game was a version of bingo. Each student had a paper with 24 squares and 24 answers to questions. The answers were placed on the bingo card in whatever order a student wanted to. The questions were read and squares with answers were marked. Five in a row earned the player a prize.
Questions from the students included: How many eggs does a brook trout lay (500-1,200); What is the name of the shallow gravel nest the females make on the bottom of a stream before depositing her eggs (redd; and if a brook trout is 13 inches long what life cycle stage is it in (adult).
Then it was time for some exercise as the students have to run through a habitat marked out with colorful baskets.
When a predator taged a prey (trout) that person must freeze.
For the next round, the tagged trout join the predators.