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Trout in the Classroom Program for Life Science Students

Students in Grier’s Life Science classes have been participating in the Pennsylvania Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program for seven years. Although Grier’s students did not get to release their trout into local waterways this spring, they were able to learn about the ecological factors in this process and were able to participate in the quilt square exchange program.
TIC is an interdisciplinary program that introduces cold water conservation education in Pennsylvania schools by raising brook trout, a native cold water species, from eggs to fingerlings. Throughout the school year, students monitor and record aquarium water quality and trout behavior.  The program exists statewide due to a partnership between the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and from the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Grier’s Life Science class cared for their trout on a daily basis, while their teacher, Mrs. Fernandes, incorporated cold water education and adaptation lessons into the classroom.  The Little Juniata River Association is a Program Partner that assists the Grier School by providing content knowledge and technical support to help the students feel vested in cold water conservation.
This program is designed to foster awareness and knowledge about cold water conservation for students in grades 3-12 and to encourage continued participation in cold water conservation, management, and recreation programs.  Grier School and the LJRA provided funding for this program.
Grier Life Science students also participated in the nationwide Trout in the Classroom Quilt Square Exchange Program.  This year's theme was “Mountains to City to Sea.” Students designed quilt squares to illustrate concepts related to this concept of the watershed. In previous years, Grier students shipped their messages and quilt squares to participating schools across the nation as part of the exchange. This year, Mrs. Fernandes reached out to the program coordinator to find a way to move the quilt square exchange online.  She shared the class poster and accompanying letter along with some fish obituaries and eulogies written by the students.  
Letter from Grier Life Science Students to others participating in the program: 
Dear TIC participants,

Hello, our school is an all-girls school in central Pennsylvania that focuses on empowering girls.
In our school, there are a lot of international students alongside students from the United States. Some countries represented here include: South Korea, Russia, China, Vietnam, Mexico, Japan, Bermuda, Ethiopia, Canada, and Taiwan. Our science department has been active in Trout in the Classroom for seven years helping us to learn about adaptations of trout,habitat requirements of trout and other stream wildlife, helping us to gain a love of nature,and teaching us to be good stewards of the Earth.
Pennsylvania TIC schools switched from brook trout to rainbow trout this year due to various issues that schools experienced with brook trout (mainly their susceptibility to fungal diseases). We went to the hatchery to pick up our fish and we saw a golden rainbow trout while we were there! We learned that golden rainbow trout are a product of selective breeding and not naturally occurring. This year, we discovered that rainbow trout are also very picky, but they’re a hardier species than brook trout. Rainbow trout grow faster than brook trout, but we discovered that they also eat more and produce MUCH more waste!
Growing fast can be a good thing because they get strong faster but that lead to a lot of cannibalism (because they got so hungry). They need very cold water and food (but not too much or too little food or else they’ll die).
We tried a lot of ways to control the habitat in the tank:

  • Feeding the fish less (3 times a week) – we discovered this was not enough
  • Turning down the temperature to 52 degrees
  • Covering the tank with foam (to reduce stress)
  • Giving the fish salt baths once a week
  • Using watercress to control nitrates (we added more water germinated seedlings every
  • Monday)
  • Adding extra ceramic rings directly into the tank for bacteria to live in 
Next year, we will use what we learned from this year’s trails and errors so we can perfect the process of raising rainbow trout. For next year, we are thinking we should:

  • Put stones back on the bottom of the tank (we took them out this year and it seemed to limit places for bacteria to grow)
  • Feed them daily, but compensate for that with a bigger tank and starting with less fish
  • Set up the tank two months before the fish arrive (and keep it at room temperature during that time for optimum bacterial growth)
  • Double the recommended dosage of Special Blend bacteria
Because all of our fish died this year, we wrote eulogies for them. Some died from our tank not cycling. Others died from Ich disease. Our timeline is below. We tried adding LOTS of bacteria to decrease nitrites in the tank and get a handle on our water quality, but it took too long for it to start working.
Unfortunately, because our fish died, we are not able to release fish that we raised. We
planned to have our Trout Release Day on April 27 at McClain Run in Alexandria, PA, but then Covid-19 happened. We would have done electrofishing, macros identification, fly tying, and gotten to look at various animal pelts from PA mammals. All of that got canceled.
We learned many different things from this project, even though all of the fish are dead. This year was an experiment in trying a new species of trout! Next year, we will be able to add what we learned so our school’s fish can survive. We hope you enjoyed your TIC experience this year as much as we enjoyed ours!
Mrs. Fernandes and the Life Science class at the Grier School, Tyrone, PA
  • 259 fish arrived 10/8/2019
  • Nitrites rising
  • Cannibalism, nitrite poisoning, starvation main causes of death ><)))o>
  • + 148 new fish added to the tank 12/2/2019
  •  fish started to die again from cannibalism, stress, starvation, and finally from Ich 12/11/2019
  • ALL DEAD AGAIN 12/28/19
Obituaries and Eulogies:

Oncorhynchus mykiss "Bolt" of the Bellefonte state fish hatchery, died on December 26, 2019 due to a short but deadly fight with ich poisoning, just 80 days after his hatching on October 8, 2019.

Bolt was a fast swimmer and never slowed down, hence why everyone called him Bolt. He was an accomplished racer and often swam with his brothers and sisters at the powerhead near him home right behind it.

Bolt’s hobbies included swimming near the powerhead. His family consists of him and and his brothers and sisters, they loved swimming together. Growing up he was fast in his school and won many awards being part of his school's track team.

Obituary for Bob the Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss better known as "Bob" was born on October 8, 2019 and died November 28, 2019 at the age of 52 days. The cause of death is a broken heart. After losing his wife "Betty" to ammonia poisoning, and then his kids "Lucile and Steve" to Nitrite poisoning, along with all of his friends.

Although he was a rich and powerful businessman and actor, he also was a family man. He spent a lot of time with his family. He never missed a baseball game or a dance recital. He also won many awards, but the biggest three are Fishcar for Tank Wars the Rise of the Trout, a Golden Tank for Tanks and Recreations, and the Key to the Tank for his charity work. Although Bob and I were different species, we were BFFs. We would spend minutes just staring at each other. Then he would run back to his home. Bob was a classy fish, he lived in the pool of the tank. We were business partners in a way. I would feed him more, and he would not eat another fish! Bob occupied most of his time in the pool area, even though he owned most of the turf in the tank.

Bob's childhood was not the best, his mother and father abandoned him. His mother "Janet" was not a loving parent. Same for his father "Bob senior." They had him and then demanded that he be put in a hatchery because they did not want him any longer. And then, Bob built a life of his own.

Bob's funeral will be near the waterfall next to the bushes at Grier school. The serves will be held by me A--- with up-and-coming star, L----, sinning Hallelujah. In his honor, we will not put him in the garbage can. He told me with his last look that he did not want to go in the garbage can. We will respect his wishes. The service will start at 10:00 A.M and end at 10:52 A.M. on November 29, 2019. Afterwards, there will be a reception in my dorm room.

Mrs. Fernandes' Life Science classes will be able to apply the knowledge and experiences gained by this 2019-20 class to their own TIC programs. 

Learn more about Science at Grier.

Copy: RW | Photos: CF
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Grier School

2522 Grier School Rd. | P.O. Box 308; Birmingham, PA 16686-0308
Phone: 814-684-3000 | Fax: 814-684-2177