News, Wolcott

Wolcott Students Release Trout to Learn about Watershed and River Ecology

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Gavin Houle looks for a catch as part of a hands-on lesson in river ecology.

by Lisa Stinson, Community Journalist

WOLCOTT – On May 25, Sonya Shedd’s sixth-grade class and Katrina Hardt’s fifth-grade class from Wolcott Elementary hiked to the banks of the Lamoille River and released the brook trout they had been nurturing from tiny eggs since January. Students have been closely monitoring and supporting the trout in a cold water aquarium on loan from Mad Dog Trout Unlimited as part of Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s “Trout in the Classroom” program.

Students had mixed emotions about releasing the 81 trout fingerlings. There was a sense of satisfaction that they improved the trout survival rate from last year, with 81 percent of the trout surviving to release, but also sadness in parting with their aquatic “classmates.” Students respectfully said their goodbyes, gently releasing each trout into their new habitat.

To extend the learning, the students were treated to the expertise and teaching of two educators with Lamoille County Conservation District: Emily Porter-Goff PhD, an expert in freshwater ecology and Willow Longo MA, a teacher, naturalist, artist, and writer. Students learned about watersheds in general, and closer to home, the Lamoille River watershed, which stretches from Greensboro to Lake Champlain.

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Makayla Morwood carefully releases a trout fingerling into the Lamoille River.

To illustrate the pressures of human activities on watersheds, students built a simulated watershed and added pollutants representing fertilizer and other toxins, human and animal waste, and oils. Students also spent time in the river, using nets to gather macroinvertebrates on the rocks. The presence of multiple stoneflies and caddisflies, species sensitive to pollution, indicated a healthy river ecosystem.

And the discovery of several crayfish with eggs took the excitement level up a notch or two.

Students also wrote and recited Haiku poems about the nature around them and created their own watercolor-cover nature journals.

More about this and other learning experiences in Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union schools can be found at

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Callie McAllister and Foster Spencer study aquatic life in Wolcott to assess the health of the Lamoille River.

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Wolcott Elementary students Kenzie Rossi, Emily Murray and Olivi Pascual journal the sights, sounds and scents of their natural surroundings in a Haiku-writing exercise.

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