Something smells fishy in the classroom |

Something smells fishy in the classroom

by Linda Hiller

It was anything but fishy as 20 Douglas County School District teachers and their families learned a little bit more about the Carson River basin and its complicated ecosystem Saturday in an all-day Trout in the Classroom field trip.

“It was a wonderful trip,” said Minden Elementary School teacher Janell Sheets, who attended with her young children. “It was a good closure to having the fish tank in our classroom last spring.”

Saturday’s field trip was led by Dan Kaffer, Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development area coordinator. Kaffer is also the liaison for the Trout in the Classroom program, in its first year at the school district.

“We wanted to do a field trip because we think it’s important to inform teachers on how to see the whole picture – how dozens of developments over time affect the river and the fish,” Kaffer said.

The first stop for the class was at the Cradlebaugh Bridge area in the northern end of the Carson Valley. There, river water was collected and tested for quality and other factors.

The second stop was in Hope Valley, where similar tests were performed on the river water there.

The third stop was at Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe, where kokanee salmon are currently filling the waterway as they spawn.

n Our water is best. “It was really interesting, because we found out that the water quality was the best here in the Valley, and it illustrated the fact that water quality can change with different activities in the river,” Kaffer said. “At Taylor Creek, you’ve got fish dying and lowering the water quality right now, so that is a big factor.”

Two biologists assisted Kaffer in the class: John Branstatter, United States Fish and Wildlife Department, and Jeff Reiner from the U.S. Forest Service, meeting participants on site at Hope Valley and Taylor Creek.

Teachers received one-half of a district recertification credit for attending Saturday’s trip and will earn the second half credit upon completion of having a tank in their classroom next spring.

Sheets and team teacher Shari Chappell and their combination 1st/2nd grade students were one of five classrooms fortunate enough to have a cutthroat trout tank in their room during last year’s pilot Trout in the Classroom program.

Sheets said that last spring when her classroom received some 300 trout eggs, it was difficult for the students to deal with not being able to see the developments, as the incubator was supposed to be covered at all times.

n Call me Bob. Finally, when the eggs hatched and 250 or so tiny fish were able to be exposed, she said one name was agreed on by the children.

“They named all the fish ‘Bob,'” she said.

Over the weeks, the small fish grew to the size where they could be safely released into the river. Sheets said it was at that point that the students – admittedly very young – were able to grasp the impact of their project.

“The highlight was when we let the fish go in the river,” she said. “I think the kids really felt like they had truly contributed to the whole cycle of life.”

Next spring, six to 12 of the teachers will get fish egg incubators in their classrooms, and will put into play some of the things they learned Saturday. Kaffer said he would eventually like to see one fish tank and chiller per school, so all the students in the district can witness the beginning life cycles of this important Northern Nevada fish species.

“Dan Kaffer has gone above and beyond for this project,” Sheets said. “Now I see the bigger picture. I have nothing but positive things to say about everyone involved.”

The Trout in the Classroom program is sponsored by the school district, Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development, United States Department of Agriculture, High Sierra Flycasters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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