WV Wildlife: Trout in the Classroom

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

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.

"We have pH testing, ammonia, nitrates and I just love it--it's fun", said Jade Longwell—a student in the class.

Jaylen Rider, also a student in the class, says he’s learned a lot already.

"I’ve learned responsibility. It makes me feel happy that they're growing and are healthy", said Rider.

"You know--they're going to be better citizens and they're going to be better sportsmen and just better aware of their habitat", said Homer Sweeney.

"I think it's a wonderful program that everybody should have in their schools”, said Melinda Humphreys.

Best of luck, little ones--we hope you can thrive in our waters later this spring.

  • To visit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, just click here.

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