When Greencastle-Antrim middle-schoolers were small, many of them read the classic Dr. Seuss story "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," which teaches less about fish and more about rhyming. So it's only right that they get a real lesson on fish during their education.
A group of eighth-graders in the environmental science class started that lesson earlier this year and closed the book on it Thursday, when they released 23 brook trout into Dickey's Run near Mercersburg.
"This is part of the Pennsylvania Trout in the Classroom project," explained Ashley Martin, administrative intern at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School.
TIC is an interdisciplinary partnership between the state Fish and Boat Commission and the Pa. Council of Trout Unlimited in which students in grades 3-12 learn about cold water conservation while raising brook trout from eggs to fingerlings in a classroom aquarium. The partnership, with assistance from local conservation organizations, provides the eggs, trout food, technical assistance, curriculum connections and teacher workshop.
All classrooms end the year by releasing their trout into a state-approved waterway. G-AMS has been raising trout for four years.
"The trout come as eggs in the fall," explained teacher Betsy Wilson. The class received 230 eggs and 23 survived.
"We have a 10 percent survival rate," Wilson said. "In the wild, it's about 1 to 2 percent."
Trout were kept in an aquarium and sixth-graders routinely tested and changed the tank water, cleaned the tank and fed the fish.
The eighth-graders got the pleasure of liberating the fish into a stream.
"We're putting them into a small run so the trout will have cover and vegetation. It's a bit slower moving, too," Wilson explained.
While some students measured the temperature of the cooler and the adjacent stream where the fish would be released, others searched the creek for macroinvertebrates that the fish would live on.
"I'm getting the temperature of this water so we can even it out in the cooler so the fish don't go into shock when we release them," explained Claire Coons, who ankle-keep in the stream holding a thermometer.
The stream was about 12 degrees Celsius, while the cooler water measured about 10 degrees.
"Our water temperatures are pretty similar," Wilson observed. "That's a good sign."
As students took turns pouring creek water into the cooler to acclimate the fish, they guided each other through the process.
"Slow and steady wins the race," Coons said.
Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing if the trout survive after they are released into the stream.
"Some of the students wondered if we could use tracking devices, but I think that's a little bit out of our budget," Wilson said with a chuckle.
Whether or not the fingerlings survive, it was a successful lesson.
"It's a fun way of learning," Coons said. "I really like this."