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Mt. Pleasant Area students free a school of state's fish

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Mt. Pleasant Area Junior High School seventh-graders Kayla Moninger, 13, (left) and Alexys Daniels, 13, release brook trout recently into Jacobs Creek, just above the falls at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township. Photo taken on Friday, April 25, 2014

Seventh-grade science students at Mt. Pleasant Area Junior High School recently released more than 100 brook trout — Pennsylvania's state fish — into Jacobs Creek.

The happening — which took place on the pastoral grounds of the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township — concluded the pupils' “Trout in the Classroom” project.

“I think it was the best project we did in science all year,” said Shayree Ansell, 12, a student at the school.

“It was a good experience watching the fish grow from eggs to baby brook trout,” she added.

The project was made possible through a partnership between the state's Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, said Floyd Snyder, the students' science teacher.

The partnership, carried out locally with assistance from Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, was designed to introduce students to cold water resources and the importance of them to all communities, Snyder said.

It also provides brook trout eggs, trout food and technical assistance, curriculum and teacher workshops annually to school districts like Mt. Pleasant Area.

In November, the students received the trout eggs.

They were responsible for taking care of the trout, contained in a singular tank, during science classes.

By monitoring the water's temperature, along with its pH and ammonia levels, they ensured the environment was safe for the growing fish.

They were tasked with feeding them a specific amount of food each day. Meanwhile, Snyder said he and his fellow science instructors used the captive fish as an example to teach the students about life cycles, adaptations that allow organisms to survive and nature's nitrogen cycle and ecological indicators.

Students regularly checked the fish tank to make observations and check for changes.

While the science class was only able to procure equipment for one classroom this year, the goal is to have more next year.

“Our goal is to raise enough money to have a tank in every seventh-grade science classroom,” Snyder said.

Having additional tanks will allow Snyder's future students to raise and release even more brook trout, he added.

Financial support to purchase project equipment was made possible through donations and volunteer efforts from Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, dentist Paul Kraisinger of Complete Family Dentistry, the junior high school's student council, student sponsor Patricia Smith of the Mt. Pleasant Area Educators Association, the school's Pollution Patrol student group and their sponsor, Julie Emerick, and Walmart, Snyder said. In addition, officials of the Markosky Engineering Group Inc. volunteered their time through the Jacobs Creek organization to teach students how to collect aquatic macroinvertebrates in the creek.

The pupils were asked to identify specimens they collected.

Brian L. Tuccarello, a waterway conservation officer with the state's fish and boat commission, spoke to students about water issues and answered questions.

“I think it is important to get kids off cell phones and computers to learn about the environment,” Tuccarello said.

Students also learned about the duties of the fish and boat commission and how its officials stock fish in local waterways.

They also got to enjoy a nature walk on the center's trails.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or