We had a special delivery at school today! Two hundred brook trout eggs were delivered to our classroom. Students will (hopefully) get to experience watching these eggs hatch into alevins and grow into fry. For this program, I got a permit from the state of Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to keep and raise the trout. We then release them in the spring in an approved habitat. Field trip and hands on science opportunity- sign me up!
This isn’t the first time my Science classes are participating in this “Trout in the Classroom” program. I tried this for the first time last year. I attended a teacher workshop, got approval from my principal, obtained all of the necessary equipment (a list about 30 items long- thank god for Amazon) and spent hours of prep time, after school hours and weekend visits to school prepping and maintaining the 55 gallon tank.
Of course, the point is to have the students help during this project. Ok, yes- but take into consideration my students are 10 years old. And also take into consideration, I am a mother- I know how kids that age “help” when it comes to taking care of pets. For example, how I was promised with the latest kitten our family adopted that I wouldn’t have to do anything. But somehow, I am still the one bringing him to the vet, cleaning the litter box, making sure he has food and clean water. Hmmmm….
But I digress… we all know kids often will do chores for teachers that they won’t do for their parents at home. And there are lots of opportunities for chores with this project. So, we received the eggs today. Now what? Now, it’s a waiting game. It takes about two weeks before they do anything. Although, they are pretty cool eggs to observe. You can see the fish spine and eyes inside the eggs! Once they hatch, then it’s another waiting game. The tiny “alevins” as they are called, fall to the bottom, bury themselves in the rocks and feed off of their protein sac for a another couple weeks.
Until, they finally get to the stage when they will come up to the surface for food. Ok. This the part the kids all wait for. Fish feeding time! Besides feeding, of course we need to clean the water (5 gallons at a time every other day), test the water and possibility add supplements/chemicals and clean the tank. Lots of commitment. So, last year, when most of these fish died after 2 months, you can understand why I would be upset. I was more upset than the students. And then I figured out why- because I had dedicated so much time and care into raising and keeping these little beings alive for two months!
There were lots of possible reasons why they didn’t make it for too long last year -the ph level kept fluctuating, even with trying chemically balance the levels. The tank possibly wasn’t staying at the right temperature, and oh yeah- then there was a rumor that my power got cut one weekend. (That didn’t end up being true.)
So, I am trying it again this year. Partly because I am a glutton for punishment and partly because I am often known as the “crazy” science teacher and I can’t disappoint.
So, fingers crossed that these little babies survive for longer than they did last year and we get to take a local field trip to release them alive. If not, I am sure I will think of something else crazy I can do in my classroom to keep me busy until the end of the year.-E