Students Release Trout into the Lamoille River and Learn about Watershed and River Ecology

On May 25, Sonya Shedd’s 6th grade class and Katrina Hardt’s 5th grade class from Wolcott Elementary hiked to the banks of the Lamoille River and released the brook trout they’ve been nurturing from tiny eggs since January. Students have been closely monitoring and supporting the trout in a cold water aquarium on loan from Mad Dog Trout Unlimited as part of Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s “Trout in the Classroom” program.

Students had mixed emotions about releasing the 81 trout fingerlings. There was a sense of satisfaction that they improved the trout survival rate from last year, with 81% of the trout surviving to release, but also sadness in parting with their aquatic “classmates.” Students respectfully said their goodbyes, gently releasing each trout into their new habitat.

To extend the learning, the students were treated to the expertise and teaching of two educators with Lamoille County Conservation District: Emily Porter-Goff, PhD, an expert in freshwater ecology and Willow Longo, MA, a teacher, naturalist, artist, and writer. Students learned about watersheds in general, and closer to home, the Lamoille River watershed, which stretches from Greensboro to Lake Champlain. To illustrate the pressures of human activities on our watersheds, students built a simulated watershed and added “pollutants” representing fertilizer and other toxins, human and animal waste, and oils. Students also spent time in the river, using nets to gather macroinvertebrates on the rocks. The presence of multiple stoneflies and caddisflies – species sensitive to pollution – indicated a healthy river ecosystem. And the discovery of several crayfish with eggs took the excitement level up a notch or two! Students also wrote and recited Haiku poems about the nature around them and created their own watercolor-cover nature journals.