Education grant allows kids to raise trout in classroom
HUGHESVILLE – Once again the East Lycoming School District’s Education Foundation has provided an engaging learning experience in the science and biology classrooms. Donations from community members, businesses and graduates have helped to integrate more hands-on learning experiences for the students. This is the first year for an outdoor garden and now the students are raising trout inside the classroom according to Superintendent, Michael Pawlik who gave a tour of the science classrooms during Friday morning’s teacher in-service day on November 10.
“These endowed contributions have already manifested into two programs,” said Geneva Peck, President of the Foundation. “The benefit will go to all the grades, K through 12.”
Each year teachers submit a proposal for a grant and a committee from the education foundation help select a project. “Teachers can request up to $2500,” said Pawlik. All the applications are reviewed to see which ones will impact the students the most.
Hughesville native and graduate, Clay Fought, was one of the contributors. A passion and love for the outdoors generated the trout pond aquarium inside the classroom for this year’s grant project selection.
Pawlik said the school partnered with the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “This will give all kids the opportunity to be outdoors.”
Each day the students in Mrs. McClintock’s biology class like to check the hatchery with the small “swimmers” , some still in egg sacs before they develop into full size trout. “This provides great lessions for the kids,” she said. “They learn the life cycle of the brook trout.” During the growing stages, the students feed the trout and monitor their progress. There were 267 live eggs to start, and many of the “little hatchlings” didn’t survive according to McClintock. They must remain in total darkness with only 15 minutes of light each day. The kids collect data three times a week that includes temperature, water quality, and number of eggs. “They love it, and work well as a team.” According to Pawlik the hardware and pump was funded through the grant, and the district maintains the cost of the eggs and the food.
Fresh water from the stream behind Ferell Elementary School in Picture Rocks was used, and right now, the tiny “swimmers” must stay at a temperature of 54 to 56 degrees, never over 60.
McClintock completed an interdisciplinary program that was state-approved over the summer at Penn State University. “Trout in the Classroom” was created for students to learn about coldwater conservation while raising brook trout from eggs to fingerlings. “The kids are doing an incredible job,” she added. “It is part of their ecology unit. They are very sensitive to the existence of the trout and made the connection right away.”
The tank can hold 80 to 100 gallons once the trout hatch. “For now, we call them the ‘wiggly Spartans’!”
Another classroom visit, that of Lisa Strouse who teaches plant biology, revealed food growing in the classroom. Strouse is a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist. She teaches the art of hydroponics so kids can develop their creativity and learn how food is grown naturally. Inside varieties of lettuce are grown, and students celebrate in January, March, and November with salad parties according to Strouse.
Last year the outdoor garden was started and produced an array of lettuce, carrots, kale, arugula and radishes. Cucumbers were started in the greenhouse. “We grow without chemicals,” said Strouse as she held up a box of aphids for pest control that was just delivered at the school.
One of the main sections of the course is learning about Vermi-composting, a method using red worms mixed with organic material in a suitable bin or container. “The worms need to be kept warm,” Strouse said, and the fertilizer is used for the gardens. Strouse and the students have a plant sale every spring at the school. Her next project, she hopes, will be a pollinator garden, but meanwhile she said she would like a tool shed to store all the tools they have acquired.
“I can see some students emerging as leaders from this project,” said Gina Michael, another member of the Education Foundation who went on the tour to see the science projects. “Because of this program, kids are eating food they never tasted before.”
“Every moment is a teachable moment,” added Pawlik.