There are hundreds of fish in the sea. In a York Suburban Middle School science class, though, there are exactly 153 fish in the aquarium, and they're all trout.
Seventh-grade science teacher Kathleen Green applied for a grant through the York Suburban Education Foundation to participate in the Trout in the Classroom program. With the successful grant came a large aquarium, a cooling system, chemistry sets to check the water and 153 trout.
Students will spend the year observing the trout as they grow and caring for them before ultimately releasing them into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The class has partnered with the state Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited so the students could learn about the importance of the watershed.
Students spent their first day with the trout on Nov. 18, but they've been preparing for quite some time now. In the weeks leading up to the program, students researched trout and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as their first unit, Green said. Last Friday, students were able to check the aquarium's temperature, water acidity and other chemical levels and make sure that all 153 trout were still alive.
Students were glued to their teacher as she explained the aquarium system, which includes a cooler to keep the water a certain temperature and a lot of cardboard to block out any sunlight. They broke into smaller groups to test the acidity of the water, the nitrate levels, the ammonia and more.
The trout just recently hatched and are in the alevin stage of development. Students don't feed them at this stage, but eventually they will be responsible for that aspect of care as well.
"I love the hands-on stuff," Green said. "I try to structure all my teaching that way."
For a few more months the students will watch the trout grow, losing a few in the process. Green told the class that they will ultimately release between 75 and 100 of the trout into the watershed. In March, the students will tour the release site, which will be coordinated with the state Fish and Boat Commission.
Green told the class that once they release the fish sometime in April, they will learn how to fish for trout and how to properly clean and cook them, which was met with some faces of excitement and disgust.
Students are most excited to see the trout released into the wild, though.
"I'm excited to see them become big, the release will be fun," seventh-grader Benjamin Klimes said.
Green said all five of her classes, which will be dividing the care of the trout, have been incredibly attentive and excited for the program. Student Eliana Rogers echoed that sentiment.
"I think it's cool we get to have them here and feed them and take care of them, but I can't wait to send them back into the wild," she said.
Green has been approached by the YSEF to see if the school was interested in expanding the program beyond just her classroom this year. She is writing an application for another grant with the hopes of having a program such as this in every science class in the middle school, but she's unsure of how much the school will be approved for.
"I'm excited, like the kids, to watch the trout grow," Green said. "I'm really loving watching the kids and how excited they are. ... It's really great to give back to the community and the watershed, and hopefully it will make them good stewards going forward."
To keep up with the progress of the trout, keep an eye on the Extra Credit blog at www.yorkdispatch.com.