Recorder: "Children to release trout into Green River"

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GREENFIELD — About 130 Greenfield fifth-graders will be releasing trout into the Green River this morning at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area.

The students raised trout for the first time this year. This Community Service Learning project kicked off last fall when students helped with the Green River Cleanup. These activities support classroom learning of the role and value of water in our world and of our rivers, according to the school department.

“Being on the Trout Data Team was really fun,” one of the fifth-grade students is quoted as saying in a school press statement about the project. “We learned how to test the water to see if it’s in good condition or not. It was pretty amazing to learn about the trout.”

The student said he liked “showing other kids the stuff we learned and being teachers to other students. We made games, and created a slide presentation for other classes to see.”

“Raising trout in the classroom has been a wonderful experience for both teachers and students,” said Anna Marchefka, a fifth-grade teacher. “Together, we watched as the eggs hatched and grew into healthy fry. Releasing these trout in the Green River, the river that our students are most connected with, will have a profound impact on how they view one of our most precious resources, fresh water.”

Several fifth-grade teachers said they love using hands-on education. They said students kept bringing up what they had learned about water throughout the year. They often chose to write about water and connectedness for a writing assignment, or brought it up when discussing biospheres.

The expansion of the fifth-grade study of water started four years ago when the private nonprofit advocacy group Greening Greenfield learned about a project the Connecticut River Conservancy was working on in Holyoke — and thought it could be done in Greenfield. The group connected with Marchefka.

The first year, the teachers decided they wanted to get their students involved in the Green River Cleanup. Teachers have since added a new element to the water unit each year. For example, in addition to learning about water cycles, watersheds, water quality and use, they added a social studies element by adding a book called “A Long Walk to Water,” about a young person in Africa. This lead the students to create a campaign to raise money for wells in under-developed parts of Africa so people don’t have to walk long distances to fetch clean water.

This year, the teachers added raising trout.

“I love this trout in the classroom project,” said Doug Selwyn, retired education professor and Greening Greenfield member. “It connects the students’ learning to the real world. It helps them to understand that what they are learning about has real consequences, and that they can play an active role in making our town and our world healthier. The trout are their teachers, and the students have living and breathing reasons to learn about and protect the environment.”