Ky. elementary has a school of fish

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — Just under the water’s rippling surface, a clump of pinkish-orange eggs seemed to be winking.

It could have been the ripples. Another explanation would have taken into account the tiny black eyes in the middle of each pearly egg.

One of the eggs was hatching on a recent Thursday. Resting outside the shell from its birthing labors was a tiny rainbow trout hatchling. Gazing steadily back at the hatchling and its siblings were two much bigger pairs of eyes.

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They belonged to Austin Laslo and Dan Busch, sixth graders at Poage Elementary School. That particular Thursday was their day to care for the eggs and hatchlings. They checked the temperature a chilly 50 degrees and the pH level of the water.

They looked for dead eggs or fish and made other observations, recording everything in a logbook.

It’s a big responsibility. The 55-gallon tank in Tandy Nash’s classroom has 300 of the eggs and the students want as many a s possible to hatch and stay alive until spring, when they will release them into a stream.

The trout are in the classroom courtesy of Mark Hanni and Pete Wonn, who spend weekdays in the financial services sector and weekends wading through creeks with their fly rods.

They also are members of Trout Unlimited, a national club for conservation-minded anglers. Trout in the Classroom is an outreach project through which the club passes on an appreciation for conservation and the outdoors.

Wonn and Hanni, with the help of other businesses, bought the aquarium, stand, supplies and eggs and set it up at the school.

“It’s a great program because the kids can learn about stream conservation and the life cycle of fish,” Hanni said.

From a teacher’s perspective, the project is an exercise in fundamental scientific principles. Regular and constant observation of the eggs stimulates children to think about what they’re seeing. “Inquiry is true science,” Nash said. “I don’t have to tell them to do their research.”

By spring, the fish will be around three inches long and ready for release. Nash plans to schedule a field trip to Carter County with probable release in the tailwaters below the Grayson Lake dam.

The stream there is prime trout habitat, cold and clear.

Rainbow trout are not indigenous to the area but state fisheries officials have authorized the release, Hanni said.

A year or so after release, the trout will be big enough to catch and keep.

But there’s another, better reason for sponsoring the project conservation awareness. “I hope they will realize that trout need clean water,” Hanni said. “Maybe this will help keep people from trashing streams.”