As News 8 Anchor Adam Chodak said, “You can add that to the list of things I never did in school.” Allendale Columbia’s 7th-grade scientists got out of the classroom and into knee-high water boots to survey a portion of Irondequoit Creek in the hopes of returning more than 160 trout back to nature. Just another Earth Day at AC.
It was all part of a Trout in the Classroom project that AC Science and Math Teacher Beth Guzzetta initiated back in September. She received brown trout eggs from the Bath Fish Hatchery and guided the students through the lifecycle stages of caring for the eggs, watching them hatch, and keeping the fish strong and healthy in a classroom aquarium. Students helped to set up the 60-gallon aquarium and monitored the water quality daily (even over breaks!) to make sure it was safe for the fish. If the students weren’t sure about something, they had to do the research and then make adjustments based on what they learned. Regular water changes were a must, so students learned how to safely complete 25-gallon water changes.
Beth Guzzetta partnered with Kaeti Stoss from Delta Environmental and their Adopt-a-Stream program to teach the student scientists about the environment that the brown trout live in. Delta Environmental has a long and rich history of evaluating Monroe County’s water quality and teaching local students how to conduct experiments, analyze data, and submit reports for data entry. The students’ education on stream environments started, again, out of the classroom last September at a stream in Henrietta where they took a biotic index to determine that site’s water quality. The students’ data was uploaded to public databases that give local stream ecologists access to the information, furthering their own study, and ability to understand potential impacts as well as changes to stream health.
“It’s so important to get the kids out and doing real world science, so they can connect more with their environment.” – Beth Guzzetta
When Beth asked the Bath Fish Hatchery what to expect from the trout eggs, they told her that some of the eggs will hatch and survive, but, as Beth tells it, “they added an extra scoop of eggs just to be safe.” The 175 eggs (or so) did hatch, and nearly all the fish survived in the tank, thanks to the careful and caring attention of AC seventh-graders. But it became abundantly clear to the students that 169 baby fish (called “fry”) couldn’t live in the 60-gallon tank for long! Conservative estimates put a fully grown stream brown trout at 2 pounds so the students were looking at 338 pounds of brown trout if they didn’t find a bigger home, fast!
Students researched habitats and food sources, where to release them nearby, and, most importantly, where they can not only survive but thrive. Skylar Wilson picked up the charge and made finding a hospitable release site her project for AC’s Innovation Day Science Fair. She presented her findings to the class, and together they agreed that a portion of Irondequoit Creek in Deblase Park would be a good site to release the trout.
“So many kids these days are just in their own homes or on the internet researching or looking at pictures of fish, maybe, but not experiencing it. And to have them make that connection, that personal connection with the fish, not only in the class, but then back in their own environment, it gives them a better respect for the land, the Earth and all their surroundings.”
The hard work of raising the fish was done. The research looked good. All that was left was confirming that Irondequoit Creek would be a safe home for AC’s very own school of fish.
Earth Day started with seventh-graders examining the banks of the creek and the surrounding areas. They then dove right in (almost literally) and collected samples from the stream bed. Those samples were brought back to the classroom for sorting and analysis. The students were looking for signs that life can survive in this portion of the creek. Various fish, macro-invertebrates, and worms were discovered amidst gasps and excited observations as students examined these specimens under the microscopes. “Oh my God, this one has eggs!” and “These two are either fighting or mating…” was heard as Beth Guzzetta and Kaeti Stoss helped the students classify each finding.
The conclusion? The stream was safe and it was time to say goodbye to the fish.
The sun came out to greet the students and their buckets of fish. There was one last step for the doting “fish parents” before releasing: they had to acclimate the fish to the stream water. So, one at a time, each student collected water from the stream and poured it into the buckets and waited. After about 45 minutes, it was time. Each student group took a bucket of fish down to the stream and held it as close to the water as they could. As the water poured out you could actually see the small fish jumping into the stream.
As student Aaron Nicodemus said, “it was a good experience; we actually got to raise something alive.”
For Beth Guzzetta, the project was an ingenious way to teach her seventh-grade life science class. “The students not only learned about brown trout development but also aquarium water quality testing and maintenance. By actively engaging in two stream habitat studies through biotic index studies, students gained a better understanding of ecosystems that they never fully understood before, especially the often-ignored but very important macro-invertebrate members. The students also built a positive conservation ethic and a deeper appreciation for fresh water, which is an issue in so many countries.”
Check out local news coverage of the AC Earth Day Trout Project:
13WHAM (Ch.13): Students Mark Earth Day by Releasing Trout into Irondequoit Creek
WROC-TV (Ch.8): Allendale Columbia students plan to release trout raised in class
Spectrum News: Preview of the activity and pictures of the students at work.
Programs like this are made possible by generous donations to The Fund for Allendale Columbia School.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Seventh Grade