Ligonier Students Introduced to Trout in Their Classroom
. Photo by Monty MurtyThanks to the Latrobe's Forbes Trail chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, 95 Ligonier Valley Middle School students will have a chance to grow trout from eggs to small trout. Pictured above is the aquarium that will house the brook trout eggs. Pictured in the background is Mrs. Lynn Adamerovich helping one of her students prepare art depicting trout and its environment.
Fewer young Pennsylvanians are being introduced to trout and trout streams by their elders. They are missing out on more than fishing. Their increasingly in-door, Internet activities are not adequately preparing them for their future role as stewards of our State’s natural heritage of coldwater streams and fisheries. Trout Unlimited (TU), America’s leading coldwater conservation organization, is addressing this problem with a program call Trout in the Classroom (TIC). This highly effective education program has been successful nation-wide, and is now expanding into Pennsylvania as well. Thanks to Latrobe’s Forbes Trail Chapter of TU and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association (LWA), some Ligonier students are being introduced to trout in their classroom.
From November to May, the 95 Ligonier Valley Middle School students in Mrs. Lynn Adamerovich’s Integrated Science classes will be raising trout from eggs to small trout, called fry, for release into the wild. Monty Murty, FTTU project coordinator, explains that trout are an indicator species; their abundance directly reflects the quality of our environment. In the TIC program, students grow to care about their trout and then the habitat in which trout live. As the program progresses, students learn to see connections between the trout, water resources, the environment, and themselves. Murty is quick to point out this is not a pets in the classroom show-and-tell program. The TIC curriculum and lesson meet Pennsylvania State Education Standards for teaching the environment, ecology, science and technology.
FTTU partnered with the LWA to obtain matching grants necessary to purchase over $1000 worth of coldwater aquarium equipment. A grant to support the cost of the aquarium supplies came from the Ligonier Valley Education Trust with a 50% matching grant from the “Now and Forever” fund of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. The most expensive piece of equipment is a chiller to maintain the 50 degree water temperature trout require. LWA’s Program Manager Susan Huba is directing LWA’s significant contribution to the project, and will provide the program’s watershed ecology training as well.
There is a great deal of planning and preparation necessary before trout eggs can be entrusted to the aquarium. The aquarium must continuously duplicate the conditions of a healthy trout stream. Chlorine in the school’s tap water must be removed, and a beneficial colony of bacteria must be cultured to deal with the buildup of harmful nitrogen. Three pumps provide oxygen, circulate chilled water, and filter the water. When the eggs are inserted, aquarium maintenance becomes a student responsibility. They must make sure that all the different pieces of equipment are working properly. Water must be tested daily to determine nitrogen and ph levels. Irregular readings must be corrected by changing the water.
Brook Trout eggs are a donation from the Rolling Rock Club trout hatchery, a state-approved source of trout eggs. Mike Allen RRC fisheries manager, will provide fish culture expertise to the project. The trout will be released into Linn Run, a State-approved trout stream, under the supervision of Linn Run State Park Manager Doug Finger, the State-designed agent assisting Ligonier Valley School District implement aquatic ecology education programs.
Scott Minster, secretary of FTTU, concluded, “Youth outreach and education have been important functions of our chapter since we started our youth group in 2005. Trout in the Classroom is an extension of our efforts to bring kids closer to nature and teach them the importance of trout and coldwater conservation. Although we have become involved with TU through our love of fish and the outdoors, it’s not all about sport fishing. I think wild brook trout are perhaps the worlds’ beautiful fish, they are our State fish, and are an essential part of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.