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Fishing for the future: Washington School is raising trout

Modified: Monday, Mar 10th, 2014

From left, fisheries biologist Hilary Meyer, coordinator Maggie Lindsey and conservation officer Chris Kuntz give a powerpoint presentation to Washington Elementary students on the life cycle of rainbow trout. Next, trout can be seen in their tank. PHOTOS BY SHILOH APPEL/PLAINSMAN In the next photo, students gather with a teacher to look at the trout. And next, Kippy Udehn releases fry fish from the mesh box they hatched in into the open water of the tank on Thursday. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

The excitement that comes with new life is springing up at Washington Elementary this month as students take on the responsibility of raising Rainbow Trout in their school hallway, an endeavor new to Huron.

The trout were just hatching when they arrived on Monday, the 10th of February.

“How do you quantify learning the life cycle? When they first came, they had eyes but they were eggs. [The children] watched them actually hatch and lose the sacks.

“They watched them grow to the point where they were swimming. Every day they are counting the fish. They want to know why some of them didn’t live. They are just so inquisitive,” said Washington Elementary teacher, Kippy Udehn.

Udehn first discovered the trout-raising program through a teachers’ training class. She then contacted coordinator Maggie Lindsey.

“New teachers contact me, and I have a waiting list,” said Lindsey. This is the first time that the trout are kept and cared for by an entire school instead of just one classroom.

“... Which is wonderful, because, normally, it’s a classroom, so you have about 12 to 20 kids experiencing this. But there is a huge number of kids experiencing this, because it’s the whole school. That was a plus. [I said] she goes to the top of the list, because it’s a school,” said Lindsey.

The tank that holds the young fry fish sits in the main hallway of the school where all the children can check up on and learn about the fish each day.

“They all want to know when [the fish] can eat. I would stand out there in the morning and a few kids would be standing around and I would kind of explain what was going on and pretty soon the whole school knew about it. They are telling each other. It’s just been a word-of-mouth kind of thing. It’s pretty stationary, but everybody can see it,” said Udehn.

The children have learned to monitor the temperature and ammonia levels of the water. They keep a daily log on the Ph levels as well.

“There is a discrepancy between the chiller and the thermometer,” said Udehn. “It says 56 degrees and the thermometer says something different and they want to know why.”

Children have measured the fish, following them around with a ruler, and are constantly on the lookout for anything that would cause the fish to become sick.

“They understand that they are babies and that they are fragile,” said Udehn. “We’ve had blanks. and I had to explain blanks, which is an unfertilized egg that doesn’t do anything, it just sits there. Then eventually you can tell they are dead because they will turn sort of a whitish color. They have to be removed because they can develop fungus and affect the other eggs. [The students] would come to me and say, ‘There’s a blank! There’s something wrong, it’s going to make the other fish sick!’”

The children are learning vocabulary as well. On Wednesday, March 5, Lindsey, along with conservation officer Chris Kuntz of Huron and fisheries biologist Hilary Meyer of Fort Pierre visited Washington Elementary to present a power-point on the lifecycle of Rainbow Trout.

“We use the proper terms. That’s what you need to do with the kids, use the proper terms. They learn it. They can pick it up,” said Lindsey.

“I was astounded that the kids knew the language and were able to figure things out that I would not have guessed. The level was pretty high for some of those kids,” said Udehn.

Meanwhile, new discoveries and vocabulary are put into use as the fish make a common conversation piece for the entire school.

“They are a common language,” said Udehn. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what background you are from. It’s common ground. It’s something everybody can talk about. They spread it and explain it to one another and discuss. It’s a center. Some kids who have difficulty getting along, you find them standing around talking about the fish. It’s such a wonderful language piece. It doesn’t matter what their socio-economic status ... it doesn’t matter, because everybody is interested in the fish.”

The fish will be released by the students when they reach fingerling stage, sometime in May. The date and location is still being decided.

For the complete article see the 03-09-2014 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-09-2014 paper.

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