Schroon Lake Central School teachers Cookie Barker and Mat Riddle have developed a trout project for students in their science classes. As part of the project Barker and Riddle have designed and built a 300-gallon, self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem.
There’s something fishy about the Schroon Lake Central School science department.
The school is raising trout in an effort “to offer the best quality science program in New York State,” according to teacher Cookie Barker.
“The Schroon Lake Central School Science Department has taken on the mission of providing our students with the best science education in the state of New York,” Barker said. “We are developing a program that is aligned with the national science standards, is unique to our school and accentuates our community’s values while providing our students with hands-on science opportunities.”
The project will be shown to the community Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 to 9 p.m. at the school. Teachers and students will be there to give tours and discuss the construction and projected research ideas.
The project began last spring when the school got 500 rainbow trout sac-fry to raise in a cold water system, built by teacher Mat Riddle, which includes an insulated, 30 gallon aquarium chilled with a thermostatically controlled mini-fridge compressor and cooler unit.
“With the arrival of the trout, came a series of daily learning opportunities as we began our trouble-shooting strategies that accompanied the responsibility of caring for these small fish,” Riddle said. “We have perfected many techniques and devised system changes that have been implemented with this initial trout population. Currently, around 75 trout are still surviving in our tank.”
Five students applied and were accepted for participation in the trout project — Will Lowe, Jeffery Armstrong, Jimmy Bowen, Dan Maisonville and Clare Whitney. They developed data protocol, conducted water quality tests and monitored growth and development.
This fall the Schroon Lake scientists are beginning Phase 2 of the project.
Barker and Riddle have designed and built a 300-gallon, self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem.
Rainbow trout, which were raised in the classroom during Phase 1 of the trout project, now occupy the new tank. There will be plants grown hydroponically in two separate growth beds using the water from the trout tank. Additionally, three in-line fluidized bed filters serve as auxiliary filtering units.
“Local individuals, businesses and community groups have offered support through donations of materials or cash,” Barker said. “We (teachers and students) began construction on the project in June and neared completion in July. Minnows were used successfully to test the system during a four-week period in July and August. Final construction of the hydroponics portion was completed in August. The minnows were returned to their original tanks as the system was made ready for the trout. Lake water replaced the water in the tank the third week of August. After a week of stabilization, the trout were transferred to the 300 gallon tank, which will be their new home until they are tagged and released next spring.”
Riddle, the earth science and middle school science teacher and an experienced plumber, designed the system with help from Barker, the biology and chemistry teacher.
“The five students who were selected last winter to work with Phase 1 (rearing of trout) of this project will focus on Phase 2, the self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem, to design standard lab protocols and to do research projects,” Barker said. “A second group of students will apply and be selected this fall to focus on raising trout from eggs, Phase 1 of our trout project. All the work the students do is above and beyond their normal class schedule.
“This trout project will compliment the highly-successful DNA project that many people helped support a few years ago,” she added. “Both projects will be used to enhance the science education here at SLCS by making science come alive and by tying community values to our curriculum.”
Barker has taught science at Schroon Lake the past 19 years. She has brought over $13,000 in grant and sponsorship funds to the science department during that time. In 1999 Barker was presented with the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award through the National Biology Teachers Association.
Throughout her career Barker has been an enthusiast for environmental stewardship. She has traveled to Churchill, Manitoba, to study polar bear behavior; the Peruvian Amazon to study biodiversity; and went mountain gorilla trekking this summer in Rwanda.
Riddle is in his fourth year teaching at Schroon Lake.. He was the first student to graduate from a newly-established program at Plattsburgh State University earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously. Over the last two summers Riddle has been an instructor of a science enrichment program at Rensselaer Polytech Institute in Troy. Trained and employed in the trade of plumbing,
A native of Moriah, Mr. Riddle is an avid hunter and fisherman with a strong commitment to environmental stewardship.