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Third-graders get a hands-on lesson spawning trout from Morrisville State College faculty, staff, students

MORRISVILLE, NY—With his face inching closer to the shiny trout he held delicately in his hands, Daniel Leigh’s eyes focused with intense concentration.

He gently rubbed the trout’s belly and grinned in amazement as tiny, yellow-colored eggs dropped out.

“Here come the eggs, look—here they come,” Jace Reel pointed excitedly as he watched nearby.

“This is pretty cool, but the fish was so slimy” said Leigh, who has never touched a fish before.

Leigh, 9, of Poland, and Reel, 8, of Cold Brook, were among 40 third-grade students from Poland Central School who participated in a workshop held recently at Morrisville State College’s Aquaculture Center, where they learned how to collect milt and eggs from trout.

The educational event, conducted by faculty, staff and students in the college’s aquaculture and aquatic science program, was a hands-on lesson in spawning fish and learning about their habitat.

Eight different schools, including Poland Central School, participated in the workshops, an educational experience through the Trout Unlimited Trout in the Classroom (TIC) Program, a conservation-oriented environmental education program for elementary, middle and high school students. The college, known for its hands-on education, has hosted spawning workshops for TIC for the past five years.

Through TIC, some of the classrooms will receive trout eggs, hatch them, raise the hatchlings (alevins) into fry and then to the fingerling stage for release. The college supplies eggs to approximately 40 schools every year.

Students from Poland Central School are among those who will receive eggs through TIC and raise trout in third-grade teacher Tracy Graulich’s classroom.

“The kids will put the eggs in a breeding basket then we will wait for them to hatch,” said Graulich who brought her class, along with two other third-grade classes, to the spawning workshop.

As the alevins grow, students will write about their progress in their journals, she said. They will also learn about the inside of a trout and make an art project that shows all the parts of the inside of a trout.

Once their trout reach fingerling size, they will be released in a DEC-approved creek behind the school.

“It’s pretty cool that we will get to watch them grow,” Leigh said, in anticipation of their arrival.

Students will actually go to the creek where they will eventually release the fish and look for insects to make sure the trout will have a good supply of food.

“This entire process teaches students responsibility, not only to the fish, but to the environment around them,” Graulich said. “This is the first step in fostering, in students, a sense of stewardship for the planet.”

Graulich participates in the workshops to provide her students with hands-on learning.

“They routinely do work sheets and other class work, but this gets them out of the classroom—it’s a classroom without walls and a great way to teach students about the environment and conservation,” she said.

Before they started spawning them, students first learned a little bit about the fish; the differences in colors between the males and females and about the slime coat on their skin.

Running the workshop and helping them spawn the trout was Laurie Trotta, associate professor of aquaculture and aquatic science, and renewable resources technology, Ryan Diehl, hatchery manager, his assistant Seth Carsten, and Kraig Soles, an aquaculture and aquatic science student who also works at the Aquaculture Center.

Students eagerly awaited their turn to spawn the female and male trout. “I’m not afraid of fish,” said Cheyenne Garlock, 8, of Cold Brook, who loves to fish and aspires to be a professional fisherman.

Ava Malin, 8, of Cold Brook, didn’t hesitate to get her hands in the action either.

“This is the best I have seen her handle a fish,” said her father, John Malin, who was a chaperone during the event. “But these aren’t moving that much either,” he said of the fish that were sedated for the process.

Graulich said her students embraced raising trout in the classroom with enthusiasm and excitement.

“This is my third year with TIC and each year it gets better and better. Since a little girl, myself, I have loved the outdoors,” she Graulich whose father used to take her fishing. “What better way to instill the love for nature than to be a teacher and teach it to children.” 

The workshop is similar to hands-on experience Morrisville State College students receive in the aquaculture and aquatic science associate degree program, which provides fundamental training in aquaculture, fisheries biology, limnology and aquatic biology. Students graduate with skills and experience to enter the field.

Student experiences are further enhanced through the college’s Outdoor Recreation Club and Conservation Tri-Society, clubs that promote conservation management principles and promote conservation ethics while providing students with opportunities to participate in fundraising efforts and enjoy outdoor excursions.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion.