Bringing a piece of the mountains to Quail Hollow

There’s a school of fish at Quail Hollow Middle… please ignore the pun.

(Above) Student Emma Souder feeds the young trout at Quail Hollow Middle School. The program teaches students about the importance of water quality.

(Above) Student Emma Souder feeds the young trout at Quail Hollow Middle School. The program teaches students about the importance of water quality.

Sixth-grade science teacher Tim Kuzara manages the school’s Trout in the Classroom project, which invites students to raise trout from eggs to fingerlings (or really small fish) so they eventually can be released into a stream in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The program takes place at a handful of schools across the county.

“It’s an authentic learning experience about the fishes’ life cycles, about conservation and understanding water quality – the fish need very specific conditions to thrive,” Kuzara explained.

This is the second year for the program at Quail Hollow, but it almost didn’t happen after all of last year’s fish died. But this school year has seen a revival after Kuzara brought in a team of “experts” to care for the fish each morning and take some of the burden off teachers who otherwise would have had to care for the tank in addition to their other tasks. Now, the Quail Hollow Trout in the Classroom program is one of the most successful in the area – they haven’t lost a single fish.

While it’s a program that students in all grades are taking part in, Kuzara has four “experts” who wrote essays and applied for positions charged with caring for the fish. The experts come in each day to feed the fish, check the PH and ammonia levels of the water and clean the tank when needed.

“It’s very much a student-led program now,” Kuzara said.

The students have already had one big success story with a super small trout named Memphis, who stuck around the bottom of the tank and couldn’t reach food against the larger bullies in the tank. So, the students brought Memphis to the top of the tank in a net each morning and fed the fish separately, and now Memphis swims with all the rest at the top of the tank.

The four experts aren’t getting any special credit, and it’s not an assigned class project, but they will get to go to the mountains to release the fish this spring if they do well. The field trip will give them a chance to learn more about the exact ecosystem the fish will live in and work with park rangers on the project.

“That way they get to see the entire process,” Kuzara said. “They get to see the result of all their hard work.”

The four experts – two eighth-graders and two seventh-graders – worked with the fish for a while before general students were allowed to get in on the action. Younger students had a chance to start helping this month by doing assignments based around the trout, such as measuring their
growth.

“I’ve always loved science,” said eighth-grader Emma Souder, one of the experts, as she fed the fish Friday, Jan. 17, before classes started. Emma worked with fellow eighth-grader Kaiyah Berinobis-Ferreira to check the water quality while other students watched the progress and the roughly 50 trout, around 3 inches long, searched for the rest of their food.

“I used to take care of fish, and I really wanted to do it again,” said Kaiyah, who had a fish tank at home when she was younger. “Now I’ve learned how to deal with the chemicals and clean the tank out the right way.”

The program originated with Trout Unlimited in Arlington, Va., to help schools teach children about the importance of preserving water resources and about what impact humans have on the ecosystem around them. It also helps with conservation efforts of getting more trout into local streams by giving them a chance to start growing in a safe environment.

“It’s a combination of helping the trout through conservation and the students learning about the ecosystem,” Kuzara said. “It’s about clean and healthy water and preserving the ecosystem.”

 

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