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Porter Elementary studying trout

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:25 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:25 AM ]

Porter Elementary fourth-graders have embarked upon a new journey, raising trout in anticipation of a release later this year.

In late September, Trout Unlimited’s Little River chapter delivered a 55-gallon aquarium, chiller and pump to Porter Elementary. Parents Tim and Jama Hurst made the opportunity possible through a donation and served as a go-between between the chapter and school. “My family enjoys the outdoors,” said Tim Hurst, an electrician for Blount County Schools and member of Trout Unlimited’s Little River chapter. “We thought that the rest of the class would enjoy this opportunity to see nature at work. It’s also critical for them to know how important it is to be good stewards and take care of our waterways.”

Students, such as Laura Grace Jones, have loved the Trout in the Classroom program. “Fish are so cool. When we got them, we’d go to the aquarium every day and look in it to see if they’d hatched. We’d just stare and stare, looking, waiting for them. Now that they’ve hatched, we’re looking every day for the ones that swim upside down (dead fish).” Jones wanted to publicly thank the Hursts and Trout Unlimited for the opportunity. “We’re one of the few schools that have gotten to do it. It makes us feel special, like people care about us. I’ve also learned so much about things that I don’t think I would’ve ever learned about without this opportunity.”

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provided the nonprofit with 250 trout eggs that were in the eyed stage, a stage that occurs about 20 days after spawning in which a set of eyes become recognizable, for Porter Elementary. Alevins appear between two and three weeks later. Alevins, which aren’t free-living, feed from a yolk sac attached to their bellies. After the yolk sac is absorbed, the alevin becomes free and floats up to the surface looking for food.

Nonprofit volunteers hung a mesh basket from the aquarium’s side, allowing students to gaze upon the eggs. In early October, teacher Jennifer Childers lowered the basket into the tank when they became alevins. Students have learned about a trout’s life cycle through this partnership, Childers said. She has also incorporated a number of nonfiction texts about trout into their reading program. The educator has additionally assigned a responsibility to each student. Some check the water’s temperature, others conduct ammonia and pH test, and others feed fish. Childers and students plan next month to release the trout into Little River. They hope to set them free near the KOA Campground in Townsend. In January, Childers’ class will receive another 250 trout eggs. They plan to release those trout in May.

Trout Unlimited’s Little River chapter sponsors Trout in the Classroom programs in local schools, including Clayton-Bradley Academy, Porter Elementary and Townsend Elementary. It pays for these programs using Troutfest proceeds. Educators tailor the program to fit their curricular needs, and chapter coordinators assist them when putting out equipment and releasing trout, in addition to any required troubleshooting. The program can be implemented for grades K-12.

“It’s a great environmental education program, because we’re teaching them to give back to the community by replenishing the river,” Childers said. “Since it’s a hands-on activity, it makes that knowledge real and relevant to them. It’s not abstract, so they can grasp it and hold on to it longer.” Gavin Hurst, son of Tim and Jama Hurst, agreed with his teacher. “I love field trips, getting outside to do and see things. It’s easier for me to learn outside, instead of just looking at a textbook. It makes more sense.”

By Matthew Stewart-The Daily Times