Suncrest students release fish they raised into Decker’s Creek

MORGANTOWN — The students in Vada Boback’s fourth grade class learned firsthand how to raise brook trout in their Suncrest Elementary School class.
The kids ventured down to Decker’s Creek Wednesday evening to release the fish they raised together.
James, 9, and Lilah and Jacob, 10, were there to say goodbye to their fish. Lilah said she was going to miss them. The students started with 300 eggs, and released around 20 fish into the creek. The fish grew to around 4 inches.
“We have less than last year but we have bigger ones than last year,” Lilah said.
The kids said they enjoyed seeing the results of the work they put in. They said they wrote poems, stories, did research and learned facts about the fish.
Boback said one of the questions the kids had to  answer in their work was “how are trout made of trees?” The kids learned that insects eat trees and the fish eat insects, learning that fish in some way are made of trees.
Boback’s class partnered with Decker’s Creek, Trout Unlimited and WVU. Boback said at one point the fish were having issues thriving and the kids had to figure out why that was. She said it ended up being a nitrate imbalance in the fish tank.
“They did a lot of problem solving,” Boback said.
Decker’s Creek is making a comeback in health, given it had acid mine drainage coming from Richard Mine. Boback said in surveying the creek, now there is more diversity and higher numbers of fish. She said it was a community effort to bring the creek back to these levels.
This is her second year doing this project with her class at Suncrest. She said a lot of research was done, as well as integrating art and poetry into the lessons.
Chris Schwinghamer, a Ph.D student in forestry and natural resource science, said one of the big problems with natural resources these days is kids don’t get outside enough and they don’t know
what resources they have available to them. Because of this, they don’t realize later in life these resources need to be protected.
“I think it’s really great that Ms. Boback does this in her class because it gives these kids experience with things that are out here and how everything’s connected. It gives kids an appreciation for nature that a lot of kids don’t get,” he said.
Schwinghamer said brook trout is an important aspect of the work being done in education. He said it brings awareness to resources and shows children they can get jobs in natural resources, too.
“A lot of the really good students go into other fields even though they might be interested in nature because they know that it’s there. They want to be a doctor or something because they’re a good student but they love nature and they just never know that it’s an option for them,” he said.

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