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Fascinated Students Watch School's Trout Grow

Program supported by Division of Fish and Wildlife teaches about cycles of life, environmental protection.

Van Holten School Principal George Rauh releases the young brook trout hatched in the school's Trout in the Classroom project into an aquarium where they will grow to about three inches in length before being released. Credit: Paula Luciani Wein
Van Holten School Principal George Rauh releases the young brook trout hatched in the school's Trout in the Classroom project into an aquarium where they will grow to about three inches in length before being released. Credit: Paula Luciani Wein
Area rivers and lakes may be getting frozen over, but beneath any ice, there's still life going on.

In fact, students at Van Holten School are getting an "inside" look at what's going on, thanks to a program called Trout in the Classroom.

Principal George Rauh instituted the program several years ago, in which brook trout eggs provided by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife are hatched and grown in aquariums in schools.

Rauh said the program was set aside for a few years, but he noticed some of the school's students this year looked ready to take on the duties.

"I saw a couple of students I thought would really enjoy it," he said. "It does take a lot of work to care for the tank."

Trout can be a challenging fish—just ask any fly fisherman—but it's a different story when their just hatching from the eggs. Rauh said the students have to keep a watchful eye on the eggs to remove any contaminated or dead ones, and tend to the hatchlings that often don't survive very long.

"Sometimes the fish will hatch out of the egg, but don't learn how to swim or eat," he added.

That means the students gain a better understanding of the frailty of life for the small fry in the wild where as few as one percent of the trout hatching will survive. Out of the 350 eggs provided for Van Holten School in October, Rauh said only seven to 10 will survive—but the school's project is off to a good start.

"We've had a very successful hatch this year," he added.

That means the students are busy tending to their little ones, acting as "stewards" of the fishes' environment in 55-degree aquariums.

It's also making the third-grade classes doing the project something of stars at the school: Rauh said other classes enjoy stopping in to see the fish as they grow, and the students tending the fish explain all about them to the others.

Parent Paula Wein said she thought the program has been very educational for the students.

"I think this is a wonderful program that the community should be aware of—the students are so excited to see the trout grow and develop," she said. "It's a wonderful thing the principal has taken the time to share with the children."

Rauh said the project ends in May, when the trout reach two- to three-inches in length and are ready to take on life in the wild. During a field trip to the Middlebrook Stream, near Chimney Rock Road, the students will release their hatchlings. 

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