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April 1, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer

Fifth-graders at Rich Acres Elementary School got up close and personal with aquatic bugs on Monday, thanks to a presentation by Wayne Kirkpatrick, a volunteer with the Dan River Basin Association.

This is the third year some Henry County students have participated in Trout in the Classroom (TIC), a program created by Trout Unlimited that aims to teach students about watersheds and the environment by raising fish at school.

A tank of roughly 100 trout sits in fifth-grade science teacher Joanna Griffith's classroom at Rich Acres. Students have been taking care of the fish since they hatched from eggs in December and will release them into the Smith River on May 29.

"It's hard work, but it's very much worth it because the kids get so excited," Griffiths said.

Some of the fish already have grown into fingerlings, the size they were when released last year. Only about 20 have died so far, according to Griffiths, which is an improvement from years past.

Raising trout not an easy task, Kirkpatrick said. Their ecosystem requires a precise set of conditions.

"The trout require cold water consistently," he said. "You have to set the temperature on the chiller, keep the pumps and filtration functional, control the pH and ammonia levels and clean the algae."

Griffiths does most of the cleaning, but the students handle everything else. Each morning, they take turns feeding the fish and changing water in the tank.
"They're very diligent about taking care of them," Griffiths said.

Her classroom has one of 25 tanks sponsored by Dr. David Jones, a Martinsville orthodontist who brought the TIC program to area schools.

This year, tanks can be found in schools in Martinsville and Henry, Patrick, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties, Rockingham County, N.C., Carlisle School and the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

On Monday, Kirkpatrick talked to the Rich Acres students about water ecosystems. He brought a "tub of bugs" from a local stream to show the kids what their trout will eat after they're released into the wild.

"It's a real kid magnet," Kirkpatrick said.

During the presentation, he picked different bugs out of the water and held them up for the children to see. A few students shrank back when he held out a cranefly larva for them to touch.

"Ew, what is that?"

"Is that a worm?"

"I'm scared. It's moving!"

Eventually, the students grabbed tweezers and gingerly picked up the snails, worms and crayfish themselves.

At first, Danica Rich, 11, daughter of Viola and Walter Rich of Martinsville, seemed reluctant to handle the bugs. But soon she declared, "This is cool."?
Raising the trout helps students understand their connection to the ecosystem, according to Griffiths.

"Your watershed begins in your backyard," Kirkpatrick told the class. "We need to take care of our personal space so we do not pollute this water."?

Jada Long, 11, daughter of Vanessa and Lorenzo Long of Martinsville, said she enjoyed learning about the bugs.

"I'm not a big bug person," Jada said. "But after I got over my fear of it, the crayfish was the best part."

Several children named the crayfish as their favorite part of the macroinvertebrate menagerie.

"I liked the crawdad. He pinched me, but it didn't hurt," said Michael Cates, 10, son of Joy and James Shoemaker of Martinsville.

The kids also looked at bugs through a magnifying glass and used a worksheet to identify them.

Said Jada, "You learn something new every day."