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WV Trout in the Classroom

leah kirk

CHARLESTON, WV— Bright minds and caring hearts--that's probably the best way to describe Melinda Humphreys’ 5th-grade class at Shoals Elementary in Kanawha County, WV.

Thanks to our West Virginia DNR and the Ernie Nester Chapter of Trout Unlimited--a group that works to keep our streams healthy and clean--the students have had a great opportunity recently to raise baby brown trout in the classroom, and it's a lot more than just watching them swim—it’s educational, too.

"They learn the life-cycle of the trout. How the environment here in the classroom differs and is similar to the life out in the natural environment. They actually get to take a trip and release the fish", said Humphreys.

This isn't this programs first rodeo, either. It's so popular--that the DNR, trout unlimited and other schools have been taking part in it for 10 years now. Schools from all over the state have been raising and releasing young trout across different parts of West Virginia.

Homer Sweeney, with the Ernie Nester Chapter of Trout Unlimited here in West Virginia, says the kids get a lot out of the program.

"This program is set-up for the teacher to teach the students--and they do most of the work", said Sweeney.

The kids don't seem to mind, either.

They especially like measuring the pH of the water—how acidic or non-acidic it is—and seeing their test tubes change colors. For the fish’s sake, they root for the water to turn green or blue after the test; this means the water is more alkaline in nature, which most trout prefer.

The trout also prefer clean and cool water—preferably in the upper 50s—to really be comfortable. Cooler water simply holds more oxygen, something that trout demand a little more than other species of fish here in West Virginia.

All of this means that special care is needed to keep them in good shape. This means a lot of work that can’t be neglected, but the students learn a lot about pH, water quality, management and even data analysis.

These 5th-grade students feel a sense of accomplishment with being part of the program—and they’re having a lot of fun also.