BELLA VISTA — Students at Cooper Elementary School in Bella Vista watched trout hatch from eggs and mature through a program provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Stephanie Pick, an ESTEAM (Economics, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) teacher, leads the project at the school.
She explained that during the 2019-20 school year, she and fourth grade teacher Shannon Tweedy started the project. Pick said Tweedy contacted Trout in the Classroom through the commission. Tweedy suggested placing the aquarium in Pick’s classroom, where all of the school’s students come for ESTEAM, rather than in her fourth-grade classroom, Pick said.
Unfortunately, they were unable to complete the project in the first year due to the covid-19 pandemic. Last year they were also unable to complete the project due to covid. This year, the project was successful.
Pick said the trout eggs were delivered by Mountain Home. There were 135 in a small basket, which was placed in a 50 gallon tank which must be kept between 55 and 60 degrees. The eggs were delivered the week before school closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, she added.
“I was told it would take about 10 days before we started having newborns, and the next day we had four. It moved a little faster than expected,” she said. declared.
As of January 17, the aquarium had 65 to 70 babies, she said, adding that it’s difficult to get an accurate count because the fish move quickly.
“They’re in the fry stage. They’re about an inch long. We should have them until late April, early May, and by then they should be 3½, 4 inches long. They’re growing from about an inch a month. They be released into the Beaver Lake watershed at Beaver Dam,” she said.
Regarding what she hopes the students will learn from this experience, she said, “I’m very honest with them. A lot of younger students, kindergarten, first and second graders don’t have never been through anything like this so I share with them we get a basket of eggs not all of them will survive it’s part of nature not all of these hatchings will survive they kind of understand that at one more young age, things don’t go the way we want.”
The students are allowed to go see the fish one by one. They learned not to bang on the tank, shout or touch the water, she said.
“They like to tell me visually what they see in fish in their appearance. They can tell when they’ve gotten bigger,” she said.
The students also choose names for the fish, she said, although it’s impossible to tell which is which because they move so fast. She just tells them to choose one that looks like it should have a certain name.
During a recent thunderstorm, she says, the electricity went out at school and the students’ first reaction was “fish!” They knew the fish needed the oxygen provided by the aquarium’s bubbler, which is powered by electricity.
“I thought it was cute that they were more concerned about the fish than the bad weather,” she said.
She said they had watched videos of adult rainbow trout, and some students said they had caught this type of fish while fishing, while others said, “I will never eat again. that kind of fish.”
Pick added: “When we get the fish eggs that are delivered to us, they might be the size of a pencil eraser. We had already gone into detail on how we could tell if it was a viable egg. black dots are their eyes, and if they start to roll, they start to hatch. When they first hatch, they don’t look like normal fish. They stay in the basket, then eventually venture out.
“I think it’s a nice little program,” she said.