BY JEN CARDINES
Huddled under umbrellas and raincoats, students at Alta at the Pyne Center—the alternative high school education program in Southington—met at YMCA Camp Sloper last week to give the pond some new inhabitants. The weather wasn’t going to stop them from releasing nearly 100 brown trout into Sloper’s waters after months of preparation.
George Pulley’s biology class obtained 200 trout eggs on Nov. 17 and students were responsible for their development until the release last week.
“My class had to incubate the eggs and develop a tank of fry, or small fish,” Pulley said. “We were told that 25 percent wouldn’t mature off the bat, so our goal when we started was to have 50 fish to release.”
The final tally showed that 93 fish found a home in Sloper Pond. “That rating is very good to excellent,” Pulley said.
It looked like a fun field trip, but it was no easy task. Kara Oakes, an 11th grader, said that the last 20 minutes of every biology class were spent cleaning the tanks and testing the water levels. Tenth grader Will Conant added that students used small tubes to sample the water and monitor the level of ammonia.
The five-month project was made possible by Southington’s science curriculum coordinator John Duffy, who contacted the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) organization.
TIC began in the 1970s in a Manhattan classroom and continues to educate science classes from kindergarten through 12th grade today. The program came to Connecticut 10 years ago, but this is the first time Southington has joined the project.
“It allows us to bring more environmental science into the classroom,” Pulley said.
TIC state coordinator Ed Albrecht set up an aquarium at Alta so that the class could work hands-on with the fish.
We are so thankful and really appreciate Ed’s work,” said Alta principal Jess Levin.
When the fish arrived at Camp Sloper, officials had to get them acclimated to their future home by introducing some of the pond’s water into the tank. During that time, the whole school—which is only about 40 students—engaged in team building activities run by Sloper staff. Levin said that even though it was just the biology class that worked with the fish, teachers thought it would be a good experience to let everyone help in the release.
After scooping the fry from the tank, students had the opportunity to name their fish before setting it free into the wild. Though they said goodbye to dozens of their well-developed swimmers, Levin announced that 15 of the small fish were set aside for further study at Alta.
“We will be able to see how big they get,” he said.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI