SPROUT BROOK -Wedged between views of the green Cherry Valley hills and acres of farmland, sixth- and seventh-grade Canajoharie Central School District students scooped up wriggling, tiny young brook trout from buckets and released them into the Canajoharie Creek, just off of Vandeusenville Road on Thursday afternoon.
The students raised the trout until their fingerling stage, when they are about 2 inches long. In the fall, the students donned rubber aprons and stripped the trout eggs themselves at the fish hatchery at the State University of New York at Cobleskill.
Since then, the students have been caring for the trout through every stage.
The Leader-Herald/ Amanda Whistle
Canajoharie Central School District seventh-grader Trever Brownell releases a 2-inch brook trout into the Canajoharie Creek on Thursday.
"It's more than just about trout. This teaches math, ecology and conservation," said Superintendent Richard Rose, who accompanied the students on their trip to the creek.
Trout in the Classroom is a program created by Trout Unlimited, a national grassroots movement to protect waterbeds and restore fisheries.
Trout need clean conditions to survive, so the students had to keep careful records of water temperature, clarity, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia and pH levels.
Rose said the project also involved statistics, writing and drawing, melding almost all subjects.
The only costs associated were the startup costs last year when the district purchased four 55-gallon tanks.
"At that point, the education really becomes priceless," Rose said.
Students in fifth, sixth and seventh grade participate in the project. The fifth-grade students released their fish Tuesday.
Life sciences teacher Kathy Bowerman said the students released about 75 fish from the 55-gallon tank she manages with her students.
The trout project is in its second year.
With the weather getting warmer, Bowerman said it was important to release the trout now because the water has to be about 50 degrees for their survival at this stage.
"This really incorporates the life cycle, and I teach life sciences, so it's perfect for my class," Bowerman said.
Bowerman's classes also raise chicks, so students can compare the life cycles of both species.
"The kids get attached to them and want to name them, but there's so many," Bowerman said.
Seventh-grade student Trever Brownell said caring for the fish was a great learning experience.
"You could actually see it happen, how they hatch and everything," Brownell said.
The brook trout, sometimes called speckled trout, is the official state fish. The fish, one of four trouts in the state, is native to the area, typically associated with the Adirondacks. Brook trout have a deep olive coloring, unique wavy markings and red and yellow spots.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website, brook trout populations have been declining because of habitat destruction and fish that are introduced and compete with them.
The trout generally live about five years in small- to medium- size bodies of water, according to the DEC.
In streams, they usually grow to 6 to 10 inches long, and in ponds, they grow about 10 to 12 inches long.
Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org