BROOKLINE — Last week's rain didn't stop Jason Gragen's fifth-grade class at NewBrook Elementary School from trudging through the mud behind Sunny Lane Day Care for the much anticipated release of 156 brook trout into Grassy Brook.
"Today the weather is not on our side but the kids thoroughly enjoy it," Gragen said on Tuesday.
The students each felt a personal connection with the trout.
"We raised them," student Seumas Henderson said.
"I would have pet them," Eric Magni Jr. said.
Dennis, Percy, Harold, Mr. Chub Chubs, Billy, Timmy and Tosh were some of the names students had given the fish. When asked if they would miss having the fish in their classroom a chorus broke out in the affirmative.
NewBrook Elementary School releases trout every year as a part of its science curriculum about conservation and watersheds.
"Hurricane Irene wiped out tons of brook trout. I found dead brook trout in my brook after Irene," Henderson said. "So now we're trying to make that rate go higher."
"We're getting to their old population before Irene," Theo Kelloway added.
Students Naomi Stacy, Haylie Bloom and Bailey Kislop said the lesson taught them about the life cycle and the different development stages of fish.
Gragen said his main motivation for doing the project in which only 65 schools in the state participate is to connect kids to their local watershed and to foster a conservation effort. It also teaches the students to appreciate water resources, he said.
"It's very personal," Principle Scotty Tabachnick said.
Gragen said the students keep an online journal throughout the raising process. "We've looked at everything from the water cycle to the trout's life cycle to macro invertebrates to water quality to the West River watershed and a lot of different topics that revolve around the state of southern Vermont's cold water trout.The kids look forward to it every year," Gragen said.
The fish that were released were likely sterile, according to Kevin Stine, a board member of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. Being sterile means the trout can't affect the DNA of the wild trout. Though the brook trout is actually a char, it would be considered one of the only types of trout local to Vermont, Gragen said.
Trout Unlimited helped the project by lending the classroom a 30-gallon tank and filter, and providing the trout eggs.
Next up for NewBrook students, the fifth grade class will be going to Camp Keewaydin on Lake Denmore for five days. Their next science project involves rockets.