Trout in the Classroom round 2

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BENNINGTON — As the Trout in the Classroom program continues to spread in southern Vermont, one school is hoping to replicate their amazing success from last year, while another has taken up the program for the first time.

According to Pownal Elementary School teacher Michael Carrano, about 190 of the 200 trout the school's fifth grade class raised last year survived to be released into Broad Brook, which runs through part of the Green Mountain National Forest in Pownal. According to Chris Alexopoulos, a fisheries and wildlife specialist with the U.S. Forest Service's Manchester office, who is helping the school with this program, that number may have made Pownal the most successful school in the state.

Carrano and the students are doing their best to match that achievement this year. This year he said he received 228 eggs in late January, and they've only lost about seven fish after several setbacks, including a leak in the tank they used to raise the fish last year. Thankfully, when Carrano reached out to Petco in Bennington about getting a new tank, it offered him a discount, and the fish were moved to their new home in a timely manner. No fish ended up dying during the process of transferring them into the new tank.

Carrano also installed a new filter on the tank to help protect the water against spikes in ammonia levels, which happened several times last year. "We had a couple times last year where we got lucky. We could have lost them all," he said. So far, there haven't been any worrying spikes this year.

The plan is to release the trout in May. Until then, the students will keep detailed records of the tank's chemistry, and will incorporate the project into classroom learning about brook trout anatomy, the ecosystem, native and exotic species, and other fish native to Vermont. Carrano said that after the success of the program last year, younger students are already starting to look forward to participating in raising the trout when they get to fifth grade.

Carrano added that caring for the trout helps give the students an appreciation and respect for how difficult it is for the trout to survive, which he hopes will instill values in the students that will encourage them to be stewards of the environment in the future. "Every day is a day that they're trying to survive to get to the next day," he said of the fish.

Meanwhile, the two fourth grade classes at Fisher Elementary School in Arlington will be participating for the first time. "We started the Trout in the Classroom this year and the kids have been loving it," said teacher Charlie Cummings, "I'm doing it with the two 4th grade classes that I teach science to. We are using the trout to cover the 4th grade life sciences unit and natural sciences units. As spring hits, we are combining with some social studies the health of the Battenkill watershed, and some STEM engineering activities. We'll also start mini field trips to local rivers to collect water and macro invertebrate samples. Each day the kids take turns with trout maintenance and care, including several different water chemistry tests. We use that data to create graphs and try and explain and predict things that happen in the tank."

This is all part of the national Trout in the Classroom program, which has been overseen by Trout Unlimited since 2004.

For more information on Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program, you can visit vermonttroutintheclassroom.weebly.com.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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