CASTALIA, Ohio — Just before the tiny rainbow trout they raised for the past few months swam off and disappeared into the chilly, dark reaches of one of the aging raceways that funnel into Cold Creek on the state hatchery grounds, the seventh- and eighth-grade students from St. Rose School said a short prayer.
They were grateful for the opportunity to receive the trout, to care for them in a large aquarium in a makeshift lab at their Catholic school in Perrysburg and to learn about their life cycle – a journey that takes the trout from fertilized eggs to minuscule alevins with the yolk sacs attached to their emergence as free-swimming fry about an inch long.
At the same time, the students were asking that the fish have the opportunity to survive in that brave, new world outside the security of their classroom tank.
"This has been a great experience for the students, since they have all learned the science side of raising these trout, monitoring the water temperature, the pH, changing out the water to keep the fish in a healthy environment, and what to feed them, and how often, and how much,'' said St. Rose principal Bryon Borgelt. He supervises the students involved in the Trout in the Classroom program sponsored by the Trout Unlimited organization.
Besides steadfastly nurturing the trout fry before releasing them into a very trout-friendly environment at the creek, which is supplied with millions of gallons of near 50-degree water by the blue hole aquifers in the area, the students also learn fly tying and fly casting as part of the course.
"They are getting a solid education and understanding of how these fish go through their early life cycle, how important the aquatic environment is to the survival of the trout, and the overall biology of trout habitat,'' said Brad White, president of the Fallen Timbers chapter of Trouts Unlimited.
A similar program is in place at Donnell Middle School in Findlay, and Trout in the Classroom or Salmon in the Classroom courses are found at schools in most states.
"It's science, but it's a lot more than textbooks and lessons since these students are so involved in every aspect,'' Borgelt said. "The students are interested, excited and engaged, and I've had parents tell me how much their kids enjoy the experience. It's fun to see them so enthusiastic about learning something new.''