SCHRAMM STATE PARK — A school of trout hatched from eggs and raised to fingerlings in a school classroom might properly be referred to as a ‘school’ school of trout … or perhaps not.
In any case just such a brood of fish was released into the cold waters of Schramm State Park near Omaha last week by their human caregivers -- freshman and sophomore students from two of York High School teacher Josh Miller’s science classes.
Miller signed up for the Nebraska Trout in the Classroom curriculum, offered in the state to teachers of students grade 2-12 and provided in large part by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Miller was required to take program training himself before presenting this most unique living study project to his students. The school district lent its support by providing necessary equipment, primarily purchase of a water chiller. The machine is a must because trout are a cold water species that would find water in this area much too warm and quickly succumb.
Under Miller’s watchful eye, students took responsibility for nurturing the near-microscopic orange eggs until the hatch, then tend to such tasks as feeding, constant water quality monitoring and quickly removing fish that did not survive to protect those still living from disease.
A most interesting and unique class period was spent dissecting farm-raised, frozen trout provided for that purpose by Trout in the Classroom’s science-heavy curriculum.
Last week Miller and the students boarded the big Duke bus, surviving trout secure in a cooler with them, and made the trip to Schramm State Park, home to the just-reopened Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium and Education Center just west of Omaha.
Total gallons of the aquarium itself were more than tripled in the expansion project and the facility is now open.
“The Trout in the Classroom program was a very positive experience,” Miller reported. ”In our first year, I was pleased with the excitement the students and adults in the building had. Almost every day, I had someone ask me about the fish or comment on the program. From that standpoint, I was very pleased with how things went.
“Going forward, I would like to make a few adjustments in regards to care of the fish. We could definitely improve our procedure when it comes to transitioning the eggs to self-sufficient fry,” he continued. “I had a couple students help me construct a device to help support the larger basket we used for the fish before they were released into the large tank. We also need to improve the feeding process so the fish gain more size before release.
“Overall, I think the students enjoyed the project. Hopefully we can correct some of these issues and next year we are hoping to keep more fish alive for release,” Miller said.
Hundreds of Nebraska Trout in the Classroom participants descended upon Schramm daily over most of two weeks for their culminating field trips. Others from far out into the rural reaches of Nebraska were able to use sites nearer their homes.
Each day five sessions were scheduled: Basic fishing, invertebrate study, ceremonial trout release, aquarium tour and a self-guided nature hike.