BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Twelve-year-old James Dauber buckled himself into a pair of waders Thursday morning and strode into a shallow section of the Pequonnock River at Beardsley Park in Bridgeport.
“I love fishing,” the Bridge Academy student said. “I want to make my own TV show about fishing.”
But the fishing trip was a little different than most. Instead of casting a line into the gentle waters, he was helping to release young brook trout he and his friends have raised at their schools.
The release was the culmination of Trout in the Classroom, an innovative conservation program in which middle-schoolers at Bridge Academy and Park City Prep School raise, study and release trout into waters where they have been extinct for many years. The students get an up-close-and-personal peek at the fish and biodiversity, while the park gets a chance to re-stock and improve the river for everyone, said Zoo Executive Director Gregg Dancho.
“It’s a conservation and environmental program to get students to understand the environment right in our own backyard,” he said.
During the last several months, the children have cared for their scaly charges, monitoring water quality in the tanks and the river and studying the stream habitat to better understand the local ecosystem, said Gian Morresi, a zoo educator who oversees the program. The project crosses curricular areas, as the students draw pictures of the fish’s distinct coloration and consider chemistry and biology issues in the tank and the wild.
The children also participated in river cleanups and got a real feel for how human actions can affect wildlife, Dancho said.
Brook trout historically thrived in the Pequonnock River but over time, their populations have been eliminated or greatly reduced in more than 75 percent of their Connecticut habitat. The fish reside in the most heavily populated and industrialized regions of the United States but land use decisions made over hundreds of year have severely impacted the quality of their habitat.
Trout in the Classroom is a collaboration among the two schools, the zoo, and the Science Education Center, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Trout in the Classroom, Trout Unlimited and the Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education program. Fairfield County's Community Foundation, Science Education Center and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation provided funding for this program.
When Christine Blanc, 12, heard about hands-on project, she jumped at the chance to participate.
“I really wanted to learn about wildlife,” the Park City Prep student said. “We learned how to handle animals and make the world a better place.”
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