Regency Park Elementary School students check out some of the brook trout they raised in class this past year.
Trout get stocked in Deer Creek every year. They get stocked in Turtle Creek every year, too.
But not like this.
Over the past two years, students from Regency Park Elementary School in the Plum School District have released fish in those waters through the “Trout in the Classroom” program.
Originally developed by Trout Unlimited, it works like this: the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission provides the students with brook trout eggs. Under the guidance of a teacher, they raise them throughout the school year. Come spring, they pick a stream – one on the approved trout waters list – and release their fish into the wild.
The Regency Park kids, 30 fifth graders in all, released 129 brookies this year into Turtle Creek.
That was part of a bigger effort.
Statewide, 283 classrooms launched classroom aquariums last fall, according to the commission. How many fish going into the water that led to is something no one tallies.
But the program reached more than 30,000 students.
And they’re not just feeding fish for a year. They are learning as they go, about the importance of cold, clean water, watersheds, trout habitat, the fish themselves and more, said Justin Stephans, principal at Regency Park.
“Students began the year learning about different ecosystems, with a goal of learning enough to prepare a suitable habitat in which all of the needs of brook trout could be present so that they could hatch from eggs and begin to live out their life cycle,” he said.
They spent time studying water chemistry, regularly testing their aquarium for pH, alkalinity, nitrites and nitrates and dissolvedoxygen. They learned about dissolved solids. They tested water for contaminants.
They also used a program called “engineering in elementary” from the National Center for Technological Literacy to become, in essence, environmental engineers, Stephans said.
“They studied the ideas behind water filters and built three different filters with everyday objects like empty pop bottles and coffee filters. They even built one with rock and sand similar to the media used in our aquarium filter,” he added.
All that led to their fish being successfully released.
Teachers and others interested in learning more about the Trout in the Classroom program can check it out here.
A video about the program can be seen by clicking here.