Share This Page

Butler students learn environmental basics by raising trout

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 3:13 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Brook trout are released in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Students release brook trout in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Students take brook trout to Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
A brook trout is released in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Seventh-grader Mackenzi Popovich releases a brook trout in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Assistant Superintendent for secondary, Brian Slamecka, takes rods to students in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Students release brook trout in Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Initial water tests are done on Thorn Creek Thursday, May 20, 2014. 96 of the fish got released in the creek for the third year in a row as the Butler Junior High School students continue the Thorn Creek Habitat Improvement as part of an enrichment studies program class called 'Trout.'

Getting a little wet and dirty is all in a day's work for Dave Andrews' students at Butler Junior High School.

After testing and recording the water quality and conditions, 45 students in grades seven and eight each released two or three brook trout fingerlings into Thorn Creek.

“I named mine Chris and Maria,” said Ethan Daller, 13, as Andrews used a small net to scoop fish from an aerated cooler into Daller's bucket.

Chris and Maria are named after Daller's friend and his friend's girlfriend, he explained. The seventh-grader then plodded down into the creek in his over-sized hip waders and gently released the fish into the wild.

The students capped off six months of work as they released 96 brook trout fingerlings into Thorn Creek Thursday as part of the Trout in the Classroom program, said Andrews, a science teacher.

The program, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, allows students to raise brook trout from eggs to fingerlings while learning about watersheds, forestry, geology, biology and trout life cycles, said state Trout in the Classroom coordinator Amidea Daniel.

“The heart and soul of it is reconnecting students to cold water resources,” Daniel said.

The trout program at Butler Junior High School has grown since its inception six years ago, Andrews said.

The students manage two tanks of trout — a 55-gallon aquarium for the littlest trout and a 110-gallon aquarium for the bigger trout — and some students had to apply to get into the course this year.

About 150 students participate between Andrews' science classes and an enrichment science class that focuses specifically on trout.

“They absolutely love it,” Andrews said. “They're the first in line to get dirty and test the water.”

Every year is a new learning experience, Andrews said. Some years the survival rate is high and the fish grow big. Other years, like this year, the fish are growing a little slower.

Only about 2 percent of eggs laid by a female trout will survive to adulthood, Daniel said.

Trout in the Classroom is a nationwide program that began in Pennsylvania in 2006. For the first few years only a few dozen schools raised rainbow, brown and brook trout. In 2008, the state Fish and Boat Commission took over and changed the program to focus solely on raising brook trout.

This school year, there are 247 classrooms with an estimated 31,883 students participating statewide, Daniel said.

The Butler students have to test the fish tanks every day for water temperature and water quality. This year they added a hydroponics component which takes dirty water from the fish tank and feeds it into a trough that grows basil plants, Andrews said.

“We have a basil tree,” Andrews said. “It's like two feet high.”

Brook trout are cold water fish that are native to Pennsylvania's streams and waterways, but the native population has been hurt by abandoned mine runoff and sedimentation issues caused by logging, Daniel said. The fish are sensitive to temperature fluctuations and water quality.

Learning about brook trout and the environment they need to survive and thrive is critical so students understand the connection of watersheds to community health and well-being.

“If we don't have clean cold water for trout, eventually we don't have it for ourselves,” Daniel said. “If we're not managing our water properly and protecting the cold water streams, it flows into reservoirs and eventually comes into our communities. Resources are something that's always going to come back, so we have to protect them.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.