Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Axton Elementary say's "Bye Bye trout"

Its Monday morning on the Smith River at Bassett Virginia and vivacious group of young students pile out of the big yellow bus, excited to be out of school and ready for an adventure on the river.  These students from Hannah Sullivan's class at Axton Elementary have been raising brown trout (with a little help from their teacher) for the past 6 months in a tank in their classroom.  They are one of 31 tanks across 4 counties in one of the country's single largest Trout in the Classroom Programs, TIC in Southern Virginia !

 Each year, students and teachers get brown trout eggs from the state hatchery at Wytheville in December,  The tiny pinkish / orange eggs are only a few weeks old when the schools first receive them and these "eye-up" eggs are placed in breeder baskets made of netting and suspended off edge of the tank.
Its not long before the first trout start to "break out of their shell" and get their first look at a new environment. 

Often, the first thing the new trout see are many eyes on the outside of the tank, staring back at them !
By Christmas the fry have hatched are now called alevins,  Just a few weeks later and the "sac fry" have absorbed all their yolk sacs and are ready to start eating trout food.

Once the trout are big enough to be "swim-ups"  they are released from the breeder net in to the tank.  By May, the trout are now big, fat and healthy and are known as "fingerlings" and at this stage  they are ready to be released in the Smith River.

The students and teachers help take care of the trout and have to make sure the water is cleaned and the trout are fed.  They also have to make sure the water is the correct ph and the ammonia levels are low.
The students are learning that trout need good clean water to survive.  So now the big day has arrived and they are ready to take theses trout they have been raising and let them go into their new river home.
On this day, The Dan River Basins new Executive Director, Tiffany Haworth, donned rubber boots and joined the students as they introduced the trout to their new home.

After the last trout swam out to deeper water, it was time for the students to take a "stream walk" and learn more about the river and what the trout were going to eat now that they would not be fed each day by the students.

On the stream walk the students learned that bugs like stoneflys, mayflys, helgramites and crayfish (macro-invertebrates) live under the rocks and logs in the river.   A seine net was used to capture some of the macros for closer examination.

 It was another great day in the best classroom in the world...the river
Thanks to Hannah and Patrick Sullivan, all the students and teachers at Axton Elementary and a special thanks to Tiffany Haworth for helping the kids stay "mostly" dry during the stream walk experience !

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