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Braeside students release their small fry this week

Fish in a fourth grade Braeside School that will be released Friday. --Photo courtesy of Braeside School

Fish in a fourth grade Braeside School that will be released Friday. --Photo courtesy of Braeside School

Braeside School fourth grade students in Highland Park will release about 50 trout that they have raised from eggs in a fish tank at school, school officials said.

The rainbow trout will be released at 9 a.m. Friday in a ravine stream at Millard Park, 35 Ravine Drive.

The Gary Borger Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national cold water fish conservation organization, gave the school a tank and supplies for their classroom project through the conservation group’s program called Trout in the Classroom.

The students were tasked with hatching the trout eggs and taking care of the trout as they grew into 4-inch-long fingerlings.

The orange-brown fish eggs arrived in a dark container that snapped onto the side of the tank in November, said Shara Lieberman, fourth grade teacher whose class helped care for the fish.  For the first three weeks, fish grew inside their eggs until they hatched.

While the tank was in Lieberman’s classroom, the school’s two other fourth grade classes came into her classroom many times per week to help care for the fish, she said.

For the three next months, the students cleaned the tank, monitored the water temperature and checked pH levels. Of the 150 eggs that had arrived in the container, about 50 hatched and survived to small fry. Of those, only three died, she said.

The students named some of the fish that had the most interesting characteristics. Two fish with malformed tails were named Twister 1 and Twister 1. The largest of the fish fry was named Fatty. The smallest fish was named Nemo.

“Kids learned how fragile the ecosystem is,” Lieberman said. “They had to feed the fish, change the water and make sure the temperature was right.”

The students will release their fish through a slip and slide contraption that allows them to place their fish on slides. They are able to watch the fish careen down the slide into the ravine stream that lead to Lake Michigan.

The school project is in partnership with the Park District of Highland Park that restored that ravine, so it would be able to sustain a population of trout again. Through a $200,000 federal grant, the district replaced cobble stones that had been washed away by storm water, added vegetation overhangs and put in riffles and pools that are critical to the survival of the fish, said Rebecca Grill, the park district’s natural areas manager.

“(The fish) want a cold water streams,” Grill said. “We think these streams can have the temperatures to support these fish.”

Also, a man-made barrier was removed so the fish can swim out into the lake, Grill said.

Grill added that these types of fish imprint on the stream before they travel out of the lake. That means they should come back to mate in the stream when they have grown to maturity, she said.

While restoring the stream, the park district worked with Trout Unlimited  that suggested that their program, Trout in the Classroom, might be a good fit for some local students to participate in, Grill said.


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