SPRINGVILLE — After eight weeks of raising baby trout, fifth grade students from St. Anne’s School traveled to River Ridge Ranch, lowered their tiny fish into the Tule River, watched them swim away, and said goodbye.
It was all part of the “Trout in the Classroom” program, a hands-on ecology lesson in which students raise trout from eggs.
“The most interesting part was watching the trout go through their different stages, seeing them change,” said Marie LoBue.
The eggs, provided by Fish and Game, and distributed by volunteers, are hatched in the classroom.
The trout is then reared and cared for by the students who learn about aquatic environments while simultaneously learning about trout habitat and trout life cycles.
“I wrote the entire curriculum. This curriculum is unique to River Ridge,” said Gary Adest, owner of the 722-acre ranch, a fully-protected ecological reserve that includes the Tule River and borders the Giant Sequoia National Monument. “Trout cannot live in a classroom forever, so students need a place to release their trout into the wild and River Ridge Ranch is one of the most beautiful locations on the Tule River to do so.”
Wednesday’s goodbye signaled week two, and the seventh year, in which third to seventh grade classes from numerous towns throughout Tulare County participated in the month-long release program at River Ridge.
The day begin with the students assigned to groups and an AmeriCorps member from Sequoia Riverlands Trust and WildPlaces, and rotating through several stations, one off them being Turtle Cove, where the one-inch fish were released into the river.
“It was sad because we raised these since they were little eggs,” said Hayley Tharp. “Some — the ones with markings — had names.”
Parent Larry Herrera said his son John had looked forward to the trout release.
“It’s all he’s talked about every night for two to three weeks,” Herrera said. “It’s exciting to be a part of raising them in the classroom and releasing it here in the conservatory. It was a great hands-on education. It wasn’t just textbooks. They got to feed them and see the trout grow, measuring them — scientific stuff. Very high interest. It engaged the students.”
In addition to the trout release, the students moved every 30 minutes through five other stations that included writing and journalism class assignments, learning about water and river ecology, taking nature trail hikes, learning about birds, plants and other wildlife, and working on an evolving natural-art project before enjoying an outdoor lunch and returning to school.