On Tuesday when I arrived at Acton Elementary, it seemed that everyone in the school knew why I was there, and knew that “it was time”. It was time for the 7th grader’s trout to enter the big wide world.

It continues to surprise me how attached the students get to their classroom visitors.

But it does makes sense. The 7th grade first said hello to their eggs on January 24th. Over the past 3 months, they checked the tank daily, took careful observations, recorded the water temperature, and tracked their development.

There was a mixture of emotions as we arrived at our release site. Although the students were sad to see them go, they now have some pretty neat bragging rights. How many people get to raise 300 trout, and then release them into a local river? Yeah, we agree…. it’s pretty cool!

Our release site was the Little River in Acton, which runs alongside Goding Road. Prior to receiving the trout eggs, AWWA worked closely with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) to pick a release spot. It was tricky to find not only an IF&W approved river, but a safe location to bring a bus full of students. After searching for weeks we finally came across an extremely generous homeowner, that had the Little River running through his property. It was the perfect spot to introduce our trout to the wild.

Before releasing the trout, the students first conducted some assessments of the site. They rotated between stations and looked at the overall habitat and water chemistry of the river. A third station was a game that centered around “tetraploidy”, which is a genetic mutation trout have. Tetraploid species have more genetic material, and can adapt as a species more rapidly to changing environmental conditions.

As each group completed the habitat assessment, the one negative thing that really stood out to them was all of the trash they were finding. Having been to the site previously, we were aware of the trash and decided to bring gloves and trash bags the day of the release. The best part was, the students were asking if they could pick up the trash before knowing we had brought the supplies to do so!

The past few months had been leading up to this moment, and it was finally time. After they finished the stations, each student got a cup of about 15 trout. I gave them a few minutes to look at them one last time, and say their goodbyes. In the final moments, many trout received names and well wishes.

While the trout were experiencing nature for the first time, the students got to work picking up cans and random debris. The best pieces of trash included a tattoo artist’s book and a lonesome rubber boot. It was a great morning with some great students!

Overall it was a great experience working with Acton Elementary, and we can tell that the students are walking away from this experience with a new appreciation for nature and science…two of AWWA’s favorite things!

Check out more photos from the day below!