Winter comes to brook trout land!
The new picture I'm using for the VTTIC blog (left) is one of several photo I took this past Sunday while I was out with my 13-year-old grandson looking for "partridge," AKA ruffed grouse. We found none. Here's another photo of the same beautiful stream.
How's the pre-cycling going?
I trust that many Vermont teachers are into the middle of the pre-cycling process.
Thus far I haven't gotten much feedback, but I'd like to hear how it's going. I'm also hoping that you're keeping good track of your data so that you can share that with us once your tank has fully cycled.
I have heard from two teachers, however, and I'll share some of those exchanges.
Devon Schrock's situation
Devon Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, reached out to TU-TIC volunteer Paul Urband and reported the following (this past Monday):
Thanks, Paul. Today I added more ammonia and Nite-Out because my morning test showed nitrate was 0 and ammonia level was 3.
I passed the exchanges between Devon and Paul on to "our science guy," Robb Cramer. Robb wanted to know what the nitrite levels of Devon's tank were. Devon came back with this (on Tuesday).
Numbers as of today are:
A student who filled water to add to the tank dumped it into the tank this morning untreated. I added the dechlorination solution to the tank and hope that will work ok. Thanks for everyone's advice and help!
Here's Robb's response:
Without fish in the tank the lack of the dechlorination step is fine and not problem.
The cycle is working but their ammonia is too high. You need to do a 25% water change ASAP and add fresh Nite-Out II.
So, got that? Never let ammonia or nitrite get above 5 ppm. If either does, do at least a 25% water change AND, after you've done that, add more Nite-Out II. Why do we add more NOII? Because ammonia or nitrite levels of 5 ppm will have killed your bacteria.
By the way, this is a good opportunity to let your students practice their math skills in a context where it could be a life and death matter! Let's say your ammonia hits 6 ppm, as the Lincoln Community School's tank did. Robb recommends you do a 25% water change. How much is that of a 55-gallon tank (or whatever size your tank is)? That's one "real life" computation. (I get 13.75 gallons.)
So, if you remove 13.75 gallons of water with an ammonia reading of 6.0 ppm and add the same amount of water with ammonia of 0.0, What should your new ammonia reading be? (I get 4.5 ppm.)
You can also turn this into a number of "what if" exercises: What if we did a 30% water change? How about a 50% water change? Etc.
Tiffany Tucker's Tank
Here are four photos Tiffany Tucker, at Elm Hill School, took of her pre-cycling date.
Here's what Tiffany said to Robb Cramer:
I started the precycling process last week on 12/3. I still haven’t seen a nitrogen cycle, and I’m curious what I may be doing wrong or that I’ve missed.
Robb responded with:
(1) Is the Nite-Out II fresh and new? Add more if it is a new bottle. If an old bottle, get a new one. There is plenty of ammonia there for the cycle to start.
(2) The tank temp is a bit low .. ideally should be above 70 F.
(3) My gut tells me something is wrong with your Nite-Out II or that you have not added enough.
Everything else looks fine!
Yes, the Nite-Out II is brand new. I’ve got the heat cranked in our classroom. I can try adding a heater.
Should I add more NOII? Or add food??
Here's what Robb said in response:
To start — add more NiteOut II today, then also again on Friday. You have plenty of ammonia in the tank to kickstart the cycle.
If you have an aquarium heater, by all means add it and bump to 72 F.
What did we learn from this exchange?
Nitrogen cycle graph
While I'm on the subject of beneficial TIC-related math assignments for your kids, let me challenge you to have your students graph the nitrogen cycle that takes place--we hope!--in your tank. I've pasted below the "classic" nitrogen cycle that's featured on page 32 of our TIC Manual. The problem with that representation is that in actual practice, the nitrogen cycles TIC classrooms see are almost never so perfect. It'd be helpful to be able to show teachers a representative collection of more realistic nitrogen cycle graphs.
Interesting, educational videos that your students may enjoy
Our VTTIC web site contains numerous videos that help explain trout life cycle and habitat as well as what our trout will eat in the wild, threats to their existence, etc.
Here's one of many examples. It's part of the Vermont PBS Outdoor Journal series. Here's a link to that series's home page: Outdoor Journal.
I've also provided a link to the Other Trout Videos page on our VTTIC web site below.
Here are some of the topics that videos available on that page address:
As those of you who have been in the TIC program for a while know, we've been using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, both as a template for data entry and as tools that you can be used to predict or control the very important "swim-up" stage.
Over time, I've come to realize that many VTTIC teachers don't typically have access to Excel and, more generally, the Microsoft Office suite of applications.
So, recently I've recreated the Excel files we've been using as Google Sheets files. Here's what the folder looks like on our VTTIC Google Drive:
(That image above is also a link to the real folder.)
The first two files (below the folder) are the ones you should use for data entry. The one with the "X" is the Excel version; the one with the cross is the Google Sheets file.
The third and fourth files (below the folder) are the ones to use to predict or determine when swim-up will occur.
Once you've opened one of these from the drive, you should "Make a copy" (on the File menu) and in that process (a) rename it so that it's recognizable as your school's spreadsheet and (b) move it to the "Individual school spreadsheets" folder. The final thing you need to do is to "Publish to the web" (that command is also on the File menu).
Last advice on tank setup
The usual advice is to get Trout in the Classroom tanks set up by Thanksgiving. Will you make that target this year? If not, you've got just a few days to pull your tank together.
Getting your tank set up before the end of November has become more important because most of our regional TIC coordinators are hoping their schools will pre-cycle their tank starting if at all possible on Monday, December 2nd. (more about this below)
If you're a first-time TIC teacher, remember to put foam under your tank before you fill it with water. Other tips on where to locate your tank include the following:
In a power outage or even a brief interruption, all appliances plugged into a GFI receptacle will turn off. Unfortunately, once power is restored, none of those appliances will turn back on unless someone resets the outlet. That means that you or your school's custodian needs to get into your classroom as soon as power is restored to reset the GFI switch. If you're required to use that kind of receptacle, talk to your custodian or your school's maintenance person and explain what's at stake.
As mentioned above, one of our coordinators, Bob Wible, of CVTU, is not recommending that his teachers pre-cycle their tanks this year. The rest of us are. We believe pre-cycling will greatly reduce water chemistry problems.
We're fast approaching the time to start the pre-cycling process. By now, I hope that you have received all your equipment and either have set it up or are just about to because we're just a few days away from December 2nd, when you'll want to start the pre-cycling process.
The supplies you've received should include a small bottle of Tim's ammonium chloride, which is critical to the pre-cycling process as we practice it.
Instructions for pre-cycling are presented in Chapter 4, on pages 19 to 21 of the current VTTIC Manual. It's very important that you read those carefully, understand them fully, and follow them exactly. If you want to review how to do this, you may also want to watch a video of Robb Cramer's presentation at last year's TIC workshop (below). Robb's whole presentation is valuable, but he begins to talk about pre-cycling at the 23rd minute. (We are grateful to our Trout Unlimited friend, Ian Sweet, who recorded portions of last year's workshop and has made them available to us.)
If you have questions about pre-cycling, reach out to your regional TIC coordinator or to Robb Cramer.
Resources for kids of all ages
Last week my post addressed some fairly esoteric questions. Should we try to "restore" nature? What should we make of our ancestors' attempts, many centuries, even millennia ago, to modify species for their own benefit? What is our responsibility if our modern lifestyle is taking an excessive toll on the natural world?
Those questions probably aren't designed for students of all ages. But the beauty of TIC is that it can be highly educationally beneficial to students across the spectrum, from pre-school to 12th grade--and beyond! And, if your curriculum is flexible enough, this is a great time of year for helping your students learn about trout, their anatomy, physiology, habitat, threats, food, etc.
Here are a few resources/suggestions that you might want to consider, some of which are appropriate for younger students.
Trout Are Made of Trees
Trout Are Made of Trees is a delightful book/story for children four to eight years of age, but I think it might work great for somewhat older students too.
It's well told and illustrated and is available both in paperback and as an e-book. If you click on the image to the right, it will take you to the publisher's Web site for the book.
Here's a link to a Web page full of activities related to the book.
And Project Learning Tree has suggestions (here) on how to connect elements of the book to their curriculum.
Below you'll find a cute shadow-puppet reading and dramatization (on YouTube) of the book done by third graders.
My Healthy Stream
My Healthy Stream is a beautiful, 86-page, small format booklet that could almost serve as Trout in the Classroom's other textbook (after the TIC Manual, of course!). As I tend to do, the image of the cover is a live link that will allow you to download and print the book--for free!
Living in Harmony with Streams
While My Healthy Stream was produced by a Michigan Trout Unlimited group but is quite relevant to our Vermont context, Living in Harmony with Streams is entirely home grown.
Four conservation-minded Vermont groups--The Friends of the Winooski River, the White River Natural Resources Conservation District, the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District, and the Vermont Rivers Program--realized that there was a great need for printed materials to educate the public about rivers, how they work, and how to take care of them.
Like My Healthy Stream, it's a fabulous resource on numerous important matters related to brooks, streams, and rivers, but its scientific content is pitched at a higher level. It would certainly be great to use with high school students, but some motivated middle schoolers can probably also get a lot out of it. Of course, every TIC teacher would benefit from reading it too!
Click, download, print (optional), and read. You'll be impressed by the wonderful piece of work that these four organizations, in partnership, managed to produce.
The national Trout Unlimited staff periodically publish a four-page newsletter called Stream Explorer, which is designed for youth members of TU. These take the form of attractive, high-resolution publications that can be easily downloaded and printed.
Here's an example: the front and back pages of an issue focused on trout habitat, especially in the Adirondacks. (Click on the image to access the Google Drive folder that contains this and other issues.)
VTTIC Google Drive curriculum materials
All of the items featured above can also be found in the Google Drive collection I've put together for the Trout in the Classroom program; so, if you lose track of them, you can always find those resources again in that collection. Clicking on the image below will get you to that folder. (Notice the Stowe unit and the materials from a Keene, NH, teacher, by the way.) If you don't want to hunt for this particular blog post, you can always get back to this folder and others by going to the VTTIC Web page <vermonttroutintheclassroom.weebly.com>, clicking on the TIC RESOURCES button and then clicking the TIC GOOGLE DOCS COLLECTION button.
National TIC Web site
There are a great many valuable resources available on the TU national's TIC Web site. Take a look especially at Lesson Plan Ideas, Web Resources, and A Library List. (Those links are not active on the page below, but if you click on the image, you'll be taken to the real "Teachers" page of the TIC Web site, and you will be able to access them from there.)
If you try some of these resources and curriculum materials, let me know what you think of them.
Finally, a caution!
I got an e-mail from a southwestern Vermont teacher about a week ago. She reported that, without realizing it, she had used a soapy sponge to clean a dirty area of her tank and now had soap everywhere. She wanted to know what to do. I advised her to use treated water to rinse and dry all soapy surfaces repeatedly.
The lesson here is always make sure you're using a clean sponge--ideally, a new one--or at least one that has never been used except in your tank and certainly never been used with soap or any cleaning substance.
Sponges are inexpensive. Our little trout are priceless!
History of Fish and Wildlife (also "fish and wildlife") in Vermont
After our brief but interesting discussion about "ethical issues" associated with the TIC program, I decided to look for documents and reports that could inform us about the dramatic changes that humans made to the Vermont landscape and to the rivers and watersheds that our trout need for their existence.
One helpful document was a "timeline" I found on the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife's Web site (image of first page below is a link to the full PDF).
In this document, you'll learn such interesting tidbits as:
But looking at these details regarding the natural history of Vermont and the evolution of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department raises some questions:
I think most would agree that the creation of Vermont's and other state's "fish and wildlife" department was a response to the dramatic decline of fish and wildlife populations across the country. What caused that?
How did we devastate Vermont's land, especially during the 19th Century?
What led people to do this damage?
Manifest Destiny was an ideology and political point of view that emerged in the United States in the first half of the 19th Century. It had a great influence on how the nation saw itself; how it expanded, both in North America and elsewhere; and--for the purpose of this narrative--how it treated the land and the living things that occupied it.
According to historian William Weeks, those who advocated Manifest Destiny usually drew on three main themes:
It was also that sense of superiority, including over "nature," and that it's all "ours for the taking" that led to wiping the passenger pigeon from the skies and driving the American bison into near-extinction.
Alternatively: the Native American view
But consider Native American cultures. The whole Manifest Destiny approach that the European-Americans used to justify "owning," "controlling," and destroying the land and its species stands in stark contrast to the way Native Americans viewed and treated the natural world.
One of the most popular expressions of the Native American's views of nature can be found in the 1854 speech of Chief Seattle. Here's an excerpt from it: (I should add that whether Seattle's words, spoken in his native tongue Lushootseed, were interpreted accurately is oft disputed.)
Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.
As I think everyone involved in this program knows, all of the brook trout eggs we get these days are "triploids," that is sterile fish.
The reason behind the state's shift to triploids two years ago was to prevent the fry we release in Vermont's waters from inter-breading with native fish that might be living in those streams. That way we can preserve whatever "heritage strains" might exist. And even if no heritage strains exist in the streams where we release our TIC fish, at least our trout aren't modifying the genetics of fish that are successfully reproducing and "making it" on their own.
When you see the process that Jeremy Whalen, supervisor of the Roxbury Fish Culture Station, describes as the way triploids are created (photo below), it may make you think about Dr. Victor Frankenstein.
But humans have been "messing with nature" for a long time. At our TIC workshop, Robb Cramer pointed out that bananas and seedless watermelons are triploids. So are some awfully good apples: Jonagold, Mutsus, and Winesaps, among many others.
But the "messing with nature" tradition goes much deeper than Luther Burbank or even Gregor Mendel. For millennia, humans have been modifying species for agriculture and herding. Most believe that agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent around 10,000 to 12,000 BC. That involved selectively harvesting seeds from specimens that had desirable traits--bigger wheat grains, for example--and doing that again and again and again over centuries. Wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, quinoa, lettuce, peas, broccoli, every fruit, almost all nuts and seeds--it's pretty much all the result of selective breeding if not even more invasive procedures.
About 2,000 years later, humans started to do the same thing to animal species, beginning with goats and chickens.
Over time, through this process of "selective breeding," species changed. Chickens that used to weigh two pounds now can weigh as much as 17 pounds. Birds that laid a small number of eggs once a year now can produce 200 or more. And wolves became house pets, that is to say, dogs. (And the dogs keep changing! Who invented that cute Labradoodle?)
As we approach Thanksgiving time, think about what's happened to the bird at the center of the typical American holiday table. I'm pretty sure you and your family have eaten a domestic turkey. Have you ever had a wild turkey? They're pretty different, aren't they. That's the result of selective breeding--and lots of other human interventions.
And many say that, if it hadn't been for the development of agriculture, we wouldn't have anything like the "civilization" we see around the World today. Over time, our ancestors became increasingly more efficient in growing food; and that allowed some members of the community to move into specialized roles, including shamans, warriors, scribes, artists, poets, and philosophers.
But selective breeding is just the beginning. As our understanding of plants and animals grew, we found new ways to "mess with Mother Nature."
Ask your local dairy farmer how important artificial insemination is. And what about genetic engineering? I'm told that it's hard to shop at the typical grocery store without encountering GMOs at every turn. (Not so in Europe, apparently.)
Hatcheries and aquaculture
Which brings us back to Trout in the Classroom, a program based on harvesting eggs from hatchery-raised female trout, fertilizing those eggs with milt collected from hatchery-resident male trout, and then in less than two months, delivering those "eyed" eggs to your TIC schools.
While many fisher-people applaud the hatchery trucks that arrive to stock their home waters, not everyone feels the same. Here's an alternative view.
The Patagonia company has produced and made available for free a full-length documentary on the issues associated with fish farming--in this case for the purpose of raising salmon--as well as our over-dependence on hatcheries.
It's a well produced and informative film that might change the way you regard hatcheries and fish stocking. It could also influence the way you shop for fish!
Let me know what you think of Artifishal. I'd be interested, too. in hearing what grade levels you think are ready for this complex and controversial content.
Here's the full-length (1' 15") film.
2019 TIC workshop
Last Saturday, forty TIC fans gathered in the Red Schoolhouse on the Vermont Tech Randolph campus for the 6th annual (!) workshop for TIC teachers and volunteers.
We were fortunate to have dry weather after a 24-hour period that brought much wind and rain and even a fair bit of flooding.
Tiffany Tucker, who teaches 1st grade at Springfield, Vermont's, Elm Hill School, was one of the experienced teachers on the teacher panel that took place at 1:30 pm during our workshop. Along with sharing information about several of the "TIC enhancements" that Tiffany has added to her program, she brought a 6-minute video that provided a visual summary of some of the Elm Hill School TIC highlights.
Here's that video.
As we have done most years, we ended the workshop by pulling raffle tickets for "door prizes." The final drawing was restricted to the experienced TIC teachers as a way of recognizing the particularly important contribution they make to the workshop each year. This year's winner was Noah Hoffman, 7th grade science teacher at Mt. Abraham Union Middle School. Three days later, Noah sent me this photo of him "breaking in" the attractive brook trout glass he won in that raffle.
Ethical issues and TIC
During last week's TIC workshop, Cindy Mosedale, math and science teacher at Newark Street School, and others raised questions about some ethical issues that they perceive or can imagine some of their students and parents perceiving related to the Trout in the Classroom program. Some of these may have to do with the fact that now all the eggs we receive and fish we raise (and release) are sterile "triploids."
We began to explore those issues but didn't have time to get into them in much depth. I have asked Cindy to send me a brief statement in which she articulates her concerns. In the next blog or two, I'll hope to begin to dive into these issues, which could be raised by your students or their parents.
A couple of weeks ago, I forwarded an e-mail about a redd counting project that was about to take place in southwestern Vermont.
Janni Jacobs, of Braintree Elementary School, which sits just east of the White River and even closer to Flint Brook, one of the White's tributaries, let Rudi Ruddell know that she was interested in getting her students involved in finding redds in their "home waters."
What's a redd? A redd is a nest created in the gravel of a stream by a female trout that's ready to spawn. Finding and counting redds is a great project to undertake at this time of year if you and your kids have the opportunity to walk in or alongside a stream that holds brook or brown trout (rainbows spawn in early spring).
Since learning of Janni's interest, I've added four YouTube videos about redds to the Other Trout Videos page accessible from the VTTIC home page.
The first two videos on that page also contain terrific underwater footage of female trout making a redd and then laying her eggs in it (and lots of other great footage).
This (below), the first of the four redd videos, provides a good introduction to the topic as well as instructions on how to perform a redd count.
Let me know if you get out there with your kids to look for redds--and send me photos.
Getting set up
As most teachers know, the TIC timeline calls for ordering your equipment and supplies and setting up your tank before Thanksgiving. That's not too far in the future, so I hope you're working on that intensively right now!
Here's a link to a Google Docs folder (on the VTTIC Web site) that contains lists of equipment and supplies you'll need, whether you're a new or experienced TIC teacher.
Here's a link to a Word document (available in the same folder) that contains links to six YouTube videos that demonstrate tank and equipment set-up.
If you need help figuring out how most efficiently to cut a single 4' X 8' sheet of 1" insulating foam to cover your tank on all six sides, take a look at the instructions developed by the Great Bob Wible here.
Similarly, if you haven't already modified your breeder basket by replacing the too-fine bottom screening by something coarser (and by putting the netting inside the basket frame instead of outside it), check out these instructions from Bob.
Unless you've decided not to pre-cycle, don't forget to order your ammonium chloride.
Fabulous video from Albert Bridge School. Tree plantings by TIC school. Great RD reports. Insect art and trout anatomy constructions!
TIC video you've got to see!
Audrey Halpert, of Albert Bridge School, sent me this fabulous video of her school's TIC project. It covers the whole almost-six-month-long process, from visiting the hatchery, watching the embryos develop, seeing the eggs hatch, etc.
Audrey managed to get some marvelous video footage of individual fry. Many students will benefit from watching the show. Her young students also provided a wonderful voice-over narration.
Thanks so much for doing this, Audrey and, especially, for sharing your fine work.
Tree planting work by TIC kids
Brett Morrison, of Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), sent me this report about Marion Cross School, which released its trout in a stream that the MCS students had earlier helped rehabilitate.
Here's Brett's enthusiastic account of these two interrelated projects:
Dear Joe: I thought you might be pleased to see an Upper Valley example of the synergy between the TU [Trout Unlimited] classroom program and dam removals.
Norwich, Vermont’s, Marion Cross students were back at the local dam and stream restoration area on Tuesday, 6/4, to release trout they’ve been growing in their classroom: “114 new brook trout released right at the old dam site.” CRC had welcomed them out to the site to help plant trees earlier last month. Ron Rhodes, CRC River Steward & Vice Chair of Vermont TU's State Council, wrote:
"Grass is growing, stream has settled in, and critters are moving around freely! We'll be back planting more trees/shrubs on Monday, June 24. (In all we will have planted 2,000 stems.)"
Thank you Joe, Trout Unlimited, and Marion Cross Elementary students!
Here are some pictures Brett sent me.
RELEASE DAYS EVERYWHERE!
Maple Street School RD report
Maple Street School science teacher Suzanne Alfano submitted this report on her school's first Release Day:
The entire Maple Street School gathered today to release 138 trout into Munson Brook. Chris Alexopoulos was able to come and join us and made sure that each K-8 student had an opportunity to release at least one trout. The students loved putting them in the brook and then hanging out to watch their behavior in the first few moments of their freedom.
The day was documented by Darren Marcy from the Manchester Journal and I would expect a story to run later this week or next. Darren was also on hand last Friday when we welcomed two educators from Shelburne Farms to our campus to run a study of the quality of water in Munson Brook. The students learned about dissolved oxygen levels and how macroinvertebrates are an indicator of the quality of water in a stream. Thankfully, all our research showed that the quality in Munson Brook was great and ready for our brookies. A great day was spent at the brook, and it was nice to see the kids so engaged, especially in the last few days of school.
Thanks for all you do to make this program happen, I cannot express how worthwhile our entire community found it, especially my 5th grade life scientists!
MSS is one of those very fortunate schools that has a release site within a short walk of school--actually, Munson Brook forms the southern border of the school property. As a result, for them, Release Day was an all-school event. Here are numerous great pictures from the MSS Release Day.
Cambridge and Highgate joint RD
Paul Legris sent me these photos of the joint RD Highgate and Cambridge Elementary had together.
Ludlow Elementary School
Teacher Lisa Mark and community volunteer Kathy Ehlers were all set to hold their Release Day at Hawk Mountain Resort, which borders the Black River where they've held it before; but when early on RD morning, Kathy checked the river, she deemed it too high and unsafe, so she went scouting for an alternative location. Fortunately, with just enough time to spare, Kathy found an upland tributary brook where the water level was perfect. That allowed the LES students to have a beautiful and safe release Day. Thanks, Kathy, for doing all that extra work!
Here are some photos from the LES release.
Kathy also sent me a short video of Ludlow's RD.
Mount Holly School
The ever present Kathy Ehlers and I also assisted Emma Vastola and her 1st graders collect macros, learn to fly cast, and release their fry. We had a beautiful day for playing--and learning--in an unnamed tributary of the Mill River.
While we didn't have a professional photographer documenting the day's activities like some schools, we got a few snapshots nonetheless.
The Mount Holly release also scored a nice front page article in the Vermont Journal newspaper. Click the image below to read the article.
Wallingford Release Day
Pat Bowen, who's retiring this year, held her last release on Roaring Brook. Like all the others she's organized, it was a highly successful event, with many volunteers and lots of interesting activities for the students to engage in. We will miss Pat very much, but I'm grateful to her for having recruited an enthusiastic teacher to step into her big shoes.
By the way, in speaking to her students and the volunteers at the end of Release Day activities, Pat said that TIC was the most exciting and engaging curricular initiative she'd ever used in her classroom. High praise from a distinguished teacher of 35 years!
West Rutland School
Danielle Liqouri drove her class's fry to the local recreation park while her West Rutland School students walked to the park, which borders the Clarendon River. After several activities that included a scavenger hunt, each of the students released a few brook trout.
Proctor Elementary School RD
Michael Manney, at Proctor Elementary School, sent me these pictures of his first Release Day, which took place on Sugar Hollow Brook in Pittsford. Congratulations, Michael.
My last Release Day of the year was with Emily Hunter's 7th graders at Mount Anthony Union Middle School. TU volunteer Barry Mayer and Bennington hatchery manager Monty Walker helped as well.
Building insect art
At Fisher Memorial School, teacher Charlie Cummings decided to have his students build examples of insects.
Anatomy lessons at Lincoln
Devon Schrock, at Lincoln Community School, sent me these images of anatomy models his students constructed. Nice work, kids!
2019 TIC season draws to a close
We still have a few Release Days to go but many are in the books. Send us your videos, photos, and reports! I'd also love to hear if you get any press coverage for your RD (or your TIC program in general).
Lincoln Community School RD
Devin Schrock, at Lincoln Community School, shared this link to his school's Web site, which features, right on its front page, a great slideshow of photos from their Release Day. LCS, by the way, is one of those fortunate Vermont schools that sits right at the edge of a lovely trout stream.
We had a great release on Monday with awesome volunteers, too. 78 fish made their maiden voyage in the New Haven : )
Fisher Elementary School RD
Fisher Elementary School had a fun, if cool and damp, Release Day on the Roaring Branch at Kelley Stand in Green Mountain National Forest.
As he always does, teacher Charlie Cummings came meticulously prepared. He had recruited numerous volunteers , including three US Forest Service staff one of whom was Martina Barnes, the brand new Ranger of the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes Forests. Charlie had an FES lanyard/name tag for each of us. Gear was neatly arranged, and each of his four activity stations was identified with a special sign. He got up early that day!
Proctor Elementary School RD
Michael Manney and his Proctor students had nicer weather for their Release Day at the Pittsford Recreation Area. The day started cloudy and cool but warmed as the morning wore on. Once the sun came out, it was delightful.
Volunteers Trip Westcott and Tom Culvert taught casting with both fly and spinning gear; Michael led a perspective drawing activity, and I staffed the macroinvertebrate collecting and classifying station.
One of the personal benefits of participating in these typically half-day RDs is that I can fish a stream I don't usually visit. The PES RD allowed me to "wet a fly" in Sugar Hollow Brook. Turns out there are brook trout in there!
Mike Carrano, of Pownal Elementary, Vermont's southwestern-most TIC school, is a very experienced and successful TIC teachers. This year has been another good year for Mike and his students, but for the first time ever, deep into the TIC season, one of Mike's otherwise seemingly healthy trout developed a deformity. A few days later, a second fish displayed similar symptons.
Mike wrote this about the situation:
Here is the video of the trout I have concerns about. It looks like we have a second trout starting to display the same sick behaviors. You can see at the end of the video the smaller trout’s spine is starting to get that “S” shape. The bigger one you can see the deformity.
Here's a super short video of the two quarantined fry.
I sent the video to Tom Jones, Fish Health Biologist for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife. He responded with this:
This looks like a condition termed scoliosis (curvature of the spine in this fashion). In can be caused by many factors such as but not limited to water quality, nutrition, certain types of fish pathogens, genetics! The teacher mentioned Whirling Disease, but there is no biological link through the eggs that they have received! We have never detected WD in a Vermont fish culture facility. I'm not concerned about the stocking of these brook trout fry! My best advise is to euthanize the fish like this and continue with the release plans.
Being just a few miles from the state line, Mike knows the lead cold water fisheries biologist for the state of Massachusetts. Mike gave him all the info he had sent to me along with the video. The Massachusetts biologist thinks it’s Whirling Disease. That would be a great concern. I suggested to Mike that he see if the Massachusetts biologist would be able to conduct an autopsy or other form of investigation to establish conclusively what the problem is.
Devin Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, sent me some materials with this introduction:
Thanks for all the tidbits and advice you post on the blog! It's only my 2nd year with TIC so I'm finding it very useful. I'm sorry, however, that I haven't been more active in sharing our work from LCS. But, better late than never...here are resources for teaching external anatomy of the brook trout.
Here are four images of the final products.
Devin provided three documents to help other teachers lead their students in this anatomy activity:
Once your program is over, don't delay in cleaning your tank and other equipment. The longer you put off that process, the harder it becomes. Many teachers give students the opportunity to help with this.
Our current TIC Manual has instructions in Chapter 10, which starts on page 41. If you have a flow-through chiller, you may want to consider replacing the tubing if it's very grungy. Tubing isn't very expensive.
When it's all clean, make sure you put your equipment and especially the tank in a safe location. That means a place where it won't be "played with" or accidentally banged into.
It's starting to get beautiful--and very fishy--out there! Here's a picture I took yesterday of Giddings Brook in Hubbardton. The water temperature, by the way, was 56 degrees.
It's Release Day season
At this time of year there's probably a Release Day occurring somewhere in the state on every day of the week. It's exciting but also bittersweet to gather with your students on the banks of a stream as you prepare to let them go for good.
I love getting reports on your Release Days, and they're starting to trickle in, as are the photos and videos.
Jason Gragen and his students at NewBrook School had their release on May 10, when they put 86 carefully tended fry into their local stream. They also got a nice article in the Brattleboro Reformer covering their release. (Click on the image below if you want to read it.)
Essex HS RD video
Kelly Hill, of Essex High School, sent me a terrific video that they made on their Release Day. If you click on the image below, you'll go to the GoPro.com Web site where their video is hosted. (All the other videos I've put on the VTTIC Web site are ones I've uploaded to YouTube.) Since you'll leave the VTTIC Web site to watch the video, you might have to return to this site to continue reading the blog.
From raising fish to catching fish!
Adding fly casting to TIC
Several of our schools have augmented the usual TIC curriculum with activities related to fly fishing. I've talked about TU volunteer Kathy Ehlers, who demonstrates fly tying. Another TU volunteer, Barry Mayer, has taught middle schoolers fly tying. Most recently, Barry and a second TU volunteer, Christian Betit, taught students attending an after-school program at Shaftsbury Elementary School fly casting.
Here are some photos of the kids practicing.
Grad course for TIC teachers, but you have to act fast!
Yesterday Tara Granke, TU national TIC coordinator, sent me information about a graduate course that is being offered this summer--in fact, right now!--for teachers engaged in TIC.
Here's what Tara said in transmitting the course announcement.
I want to pass on this opportunity this summer for an online Graduate Summer Course through Mary Baldwin University. The Course is 100% online, is all about TIC, and the first of its kind! You will earn 3 hours of graduate credit. The cost of tuition is $1,040. See attached flyer for more details. The course started on May 20, but there should be time to still sign up. Contact Dr. Tamra Willis asap.
You can reach Dr. Willis at 540-887-7135 or email@example.com.
(Click on the image below to download the flyer.)
I recognize that the timing of this course and the super late notification about it will likely prohibit most if not all of you from participating. If, however, it seems like something you might have liked to do, say, if it were a summer course and you learned about it well in advance, let me know. Perhaps we can get Mary Baldwin to offer another section.
Schoolhouse Learning Center media
In the past, many of you have enjoyed the close-up photographs and videos sent by Danielle Levine, of the Schoolhouse Learning Center. Well, here are some more!
Thank you so much for these, Danielle. They're a gift to all of us!
An interesting way to expand the educational impact of the TIC program is by studying trout anatomy through a dissection activity. This requires, of course, that you obtain some dead fish. These need not be trout, as the anatomy of all fish are very similar. You might be able to get a few trout from a local hatchery, either public or private. If that's not an option, ask anyone you know who fishes.
Click on this image to access a PowerPoint slide show about trout dissection.
As is so often true, you can find many excellent resources on YouTube that can teach you about the dissection process. Here's one that's six minutes long.
Here's one that's 20 minutes long.
Local brook at flood stage
This, which took place a couple of weeks ago, is an indication of what can happen at this time of year. It's why you need to have a back-up plan for Release Day!
The power of the spawning impulse!
On a lighter note, here's a wonderful video I got from my friend and fellow TU/TIC volunteer Barry Mayer. Apparently as you approached this site, you encountered a sign saying, "Drive Slowly, Fish Crossing." The photographer added: "It happens in the vicinity of the Skokomish River, Shelton, Washington, USA. If the river floods, the salmon take short cuts swimming across the road to go upstream to spawn. Happens almost every year… awesome!!"
Barry Mayer, SWVTTU TIC volunteer also sent me this video that he shot on 5/2/19 at Mount Anthony Union Middle School while visiting Emily Hunter's 8th grade science class. The fish look good!
Count your fish
Unless you have very few fish, it's extremely difficult to get an accurate count of your trout when they're swimming around actively in the tank.
But I will want you to tell me how many trout you released, so the time to count them is when you're transferring them from the tank to the cooler you'll use to transport them to the release site.
Here's the procedure that I recommend:
Ice pop and trout
TIC volunteer Jim Mirenda sent me this photo of his daughter on a day they visited the Dorset School tank. Jim and I "cut our TIC teeth" in the fall of 2012 as co-volunteers at the Dorset School. That was the first time either of us had assisted with a TIC program.
Nice newspaper article. Photos of Lincoln trout. Pownal video. Fly tying at LES. The WHERE of Release Day. Stream tables!
Great article on Fairfax TIC students!
Melinda Carpenter, of Bellows Free Academy, sent me this regarding an article that appeared in the St. Albans Messenger about the TIC program at BFA-Fairfax and, especially, the excellent civic work their students did in response to Governor Scott's decision to close the Salisbury hatchery.
Today The Messenger came to our 6th grade classroom to talk to students about the Trout in the Classroom project and to learn more about how important it is to us.
Students did a wonderful job explaining all the things they do on a daily basis to maintain the fish and how they have advocated to keep the program going.
Thanks very much,
Here's a screenshot of the article, which is also a link to the newspaper's Web site.
Devin Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, perhaps Vermont's highest elevation school, sent me these photos of their good-looking fish. Enjoy!
Mike Carrano, at Pownal Elementary School, is one of our more experienced and successful TIC teachers. He also takes a unique approach by doubling up on filters and, this year, using three aerators. If you look at the video he sent me (below), you can't help but be impressed by the number of fish in his tank.
I asked Mike how many eggs he started with. He said 258, and that he now has between 220 and 230.
Last year, Mike's fish got very large, some exceeding three inches in length. I told Mike that, if his fish get as big as they did last year, his tank will be supporting quite a biomass total (the average weight of each fish multiplied by the number of fish). I'm sure that he couldn't get away with that if he didn't use two filters and three bubblers.
He also provided these details:
We are doing well here. We received our eggs on 1/16. On 1/31 all our eggs hatched out at a water temperature of 42. March 6 was our swim up, and the water temperature was 50. On March 18 we released our trout into the tank. Some of the bigger trout in our tank are around 1.5” long.
Congratulations, Mike and students!
Ludlow fly tyers
In previous blogs I've written about the wonderful contributions that Trout Unlimited volunteer Kathy Ehlers makes to several of our southwestern Vermont TIC schools, especially the program at Ludlow Elementary School.
Most recently, Kathy visited LES to demonstrate and teach students about fly tying. LES teacher Lisa Marks sent me these photos.
By the way, we have some equally cool things happening in Bennington (and, for all I know, in other areas of the state as well), where TU volunteers Christian Betit and Barry Mayer have been teaching students fly casting and fly tying in an after-school program. Unfortunately, I can't get either Barry or Christian to send me any pictures! (Hint, hint.)
The perfect release site
Experienced TIC teachers probably know where they want to release their fish: the place where they released them last year. But many new TIC teachers are probably looking for the right location, and even some experienced teachers may realize that there could be an even better site out there. For those still trying to decide where to release their fish, what should be considered?
Depending on where your school is located, you may have several fabulous release site options close by or you may have no good options without traveling a distance.
What's the perfect release site? I often describe it as "skinny water," a small tributary brook that's just big enough to support trout and the bugs that will sustain them but not so big that anyone, not even your most over-eager young student, can get into trouble. The other advantage of a small upland brook is that your fry are far less likely to get gobbled up within the first hours by hungry trout.
Here is my wish list of the ideal characteristics of a great release stream:
Below I've inserted a few pictures of streams that I consider good release sites.
What you don't want is a broad, deep stream or river, where kids could get into trouble.
Have a back-up plan too
Another thought: you can't count on the weather, and sometimes on your scheduled Release Day, your first-choice release site might be in flood stage.
Here's a photo I took this afternoon of the Castleton River not far from my house. As you can see, it's way out of its banks and overflowing into a nearby field. Our area got a lot of rain Sunday night and Monday, and almost four days later, this local stream is still at flood stage. If you had planned to hold your Release Day activities in this location, you'd be in trouble.
If instead you had originally chosen a small brook at higher elevation, you probably wouldn't be facing these problems. Why's that? Water flows downhill, right?
Water moves through a drainage consistent with the FIFO principle: first in, first out. When a heavy rain hits a mountain stream, waters rise fairly quickly, but water levels in those streams also drop equally quickly, often within a few hours of the end of the rain. (Actually, rain doesn't initially affect a mountain stream that much because such streams are typically surrounded by porous ground that, unless it's frozen or already saturated, can absorb a good deal of the early rain.)
While valley rivers can take a little longer to fill up (because it takes a while for the water in the tributary streams to drain down into them), when they do fill up, they take much longer to return to normal levels, usually several days. They are after all draining the accumulated precipitation of a whole watershed.
At the same time this afternoon that the Castleton River was way out of its banks (photo above), its nearby tributary, Gully Brook, looked like this:
That site on Gully Brook, which would have been perfect for Release Day activities even today, was less than three miles from the flooded Castleton River location I photographed. By the way, the flooded Castleton River was 480 feet above sea level; the Gully Brook site was 700 feet higher, at 1180 feet in elevation.
So, if for whatever reasons, you prefer to use a lowland stream or river as your first-choice Release Day location, something we don't particularly recommend, try to also find a small-stream alternative higher up in the mountains.
Schedule a back-up date
It's always a good idea to schedule two Release Day dates, the second being your back-up date in case terrible weather or bad stream conditions prevail on your primary date. If you want the help of a sizable number of volunteers, you should let them know about both dates and ask them to "pencil them in" on their calendars.
In talking about water flowing downhill, we're getting into issues of hydrology and that, of course, is critically important to studying brook trout habitat.
A stream table is a great way to demonstrate hydrological phenomena to your students. This would show them, for example, how small, high-gradient streams (ones that drop steeply) lose the extra water dumped by a heavy rain long before lowland streams do.
Stream tables can be purchased; they can also be made. I'm even aware that some of Vermont's natural resource conservation districts own water tables and are probably willing to lend them to schools and maybe even send along an environmental scientist to demonstrate its use.
Here are a few YouTube videos that show how stream tables can be used as a teaching tool.
Joe Mark is Lead Facilitator of Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program.
In June 2012, I retired after 40 years in higher education, having spent the last 32 years of my career as dean at Castleton. One of the first things I volunteered to do in retirement was to work with a parent-friend to help the Dorset School, where his kids and my Vermont grandkids attend, start a TIC program. Gradually that commitment grew into my current role, which is both demanding and highly rewarding.