The Public Spirit, May 26, 2015

By Stephen Pileggi
21st Century Media News Service

Newtown >> It is widely known that some fish travel together in what are called “schools,” but some fish born and raised right here in Montgomery County this year had the distinction of growing up in one.

John Schumann’s second -grade class and Stephen Kistenmacher’s fourth-grade class from Pennypack Elementary School in Hatboro gathered on the morning of May 15 at Neshaminy Creek at Tyler State Park in Newtown to release more than 100 healthy trout into their new home.The release marked the culmination of the “Pennsylvania Trout in the Classroom” interdisciplinary program for the two classes.

Funded by the Hatboro-Horsham Education Foundation, students in the program learned about cold-water conservation while raising brook trout from eggs to fingerlings in a classroom aquarium, according to a district press release.

Along with the responsibility of raising the fish from birth, students were educated on the connections between healthy watersheds, ecosystems and conservation that make it possible for fish to survive in a pollution-free environment.

The day didn’t end with the trout release, though, as students were split into groups that rotated to four different stations to take part in fun, educational activities.

The first was a lesson in fly fishing — a popular method for catching trout — where an instructor from Trout Unlimited taught students the basics of casting and adjusting a line. After finishing his demonstration, the instructor had students come up four at a time to each take hold of a rod and try their hands at false casting and roll casting.

False casting is the constant back and forth arm motion used to dry out the fly bait after it has been saturated to make it float easier. A roll cast is used when there are objects behind the fisher that prevent him or her from performing a normal cast or to reposition the line in the water.

“The cleaner the streams are, the healthier the fish are,” the instructor said. “That means more fish for us to catch.”

After fly fishing, students moved to a station where they were tested in a true or false game about different creatures and the ways they eat, get water and hide from predators among a variety of other topics.

Back down at the creek, Kistenmacher led a scavenger hunt for the students and instructed them to find animal tracks and different types of vegetation.

Even with the noises of cars whizzing by overhead, Kistenmacher instructed the students to listen carefully for birds chirping and explained to the students that chirping is a way for the birds to communicate with each other.

The last station, “Enviroscape,” featured a miniature plastic model of a typical suburban neighborhood. Complete with houses, roads, trees and a nearby factory, the instructors used dyed water and soapy water to demonstrate the effects that everyday actions have on nearby streams or creeks and other similar ecosystems.

For example, the instructors sprayed some soapy water on the cars on the model to replicate residents washing their cars at home. The runoff from the soap and the chemical buildup could be seen running down the model and into the stream.

In another example, the instructors sprayed water that had been dyed black by a nearby factory. They explained to students that the pollution and waste from the factory can get mixed into rain water and, just like the soap from washing a car at home, the toxins from the runoff can find their way into nearby ecosystems.

The day ended with a group photo before students boarded the bus back to Pennypack Elementary.