Article: Nurturing nature and knowledge

Nurturing nature and knowledge

Students and teachers braved the muddy banks of Oatka Creek to assist in the release of their carefully nurtured trout fingerlings.

Back in October of 2018, fifth- and sixth-graders at Churchville-Chili Middle School began preparing for the arrival of about 150 brown trout eggs. They hoped to hatch and raise the fish as part of their Trout in the Classroom experiment. Teacher Patti Saucke had been working to bring the project to life for several years, and excitement was high in her classroom. Over the next few months, with the help of teacher Kyle Poag, Saucke’s students studied stream habitat and conservation. They learned how to monitor water quality, measure food, track population growth with graphs, and understand ecosystems.

Students watched their eggs hatch, and saw their fry grow into fingerlings. They even learned the hard fact that sometimes their smaller fish were eaten by larger siblings. The expectation was that about 10 percent of the eggs would survive, but by early spring, the Churchville-Chili trout had beat those odds. On April 26, more than a hundred healthy fish were released into Oatka Creek in Scottsville, NY by their 50 student handlers. 

“The great thing about a project like this is that it gets kids personally involved and invested,” said Saucke. “They’ve learned about the negative impact people have had on nature with pollution and habitat loss. But they also see that by respecting the environment, they can help change things for the better. Those values will go with these young people through life, and hopefully be passed to their children, too.”

“In the meantime, they develop new math, science, social studies and even language skills, and use them in the pursuit of something tangible and real. Plus, it’s just plain fun.” 

The details of the project and release were captured on video by student members of the school’s Video Club, led by teacher Jeff House. Their movie, “Trout Release Project – 5/1/2019” is available for viewing at at the bottom of the page. 

Trout in the Classroom is an environmental education program designed by Trout Unlimited. Churchville-Chili’s students used equipment loaned through the Seth Green Chapter and received their trout eggs from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). After the release, students visited the Caledonia Fish Hatchery. Established in 1870 by Seth Green, it was the first fish hatchery in the western hemisphere. It now specializes in stocking brown trout, which is native to this region.

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