Colrain Central School students release trout, plant trees to support river health

  • Colrain Central School second-grader Mason Lafleur releases trout fry his class raised from eggs into the east branch of the North River near the school. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Colrain Central School students release trout fry into the east branch of the North River near the school. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Colrain Central School students Jase Norwood, Callie Piantanida and David Kendrick plant a black gum tree on the banks of the east branch of the North River near the school. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Talia Miller, service learning coordinator at Colrain Central School, and her students helped the North River near the school by stocking trout fry and planting trees last week. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2022 4:44:31 PM
Modified: 6/8/2022 4:42:23 PM

COLRAIN — A line of first- and second-graders donning matching yellow rain suits and colorful boots streamed out of Colrain Central School last week for a service learning project where they released trout and planted trees to curb erosion along the east branch of the North River.

The students met near the riverbank on Tim Slowinski’s property, a neighbor of the school. The first-graders have been raising trout eggs from their incubation stage in their classroom since November. Those eggs, now the size of fry, were now ready to be released in the river.

Talia Miller, service learning coordinator at Colrain Central School, placed a 5-gallon bucket with the class’ trout at the edge of the river, and students of the first and second grade took turns using red cups to place each fish individually in the river.

“I miss my trout,” one girl commented to her teacher after she released her fish into the North River.

This was the second year first-graders raised trout eggs, and did many other projects related to learning about trout. With a focus on the writing curriculum, the first-graders wrote letters to local gas stations asking to sell dog biscuits they baked themselves to raise money for Trout Unlimited — a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers and associated upland habitats for trout, salmon and other aquatic species. First-graders also led a trash cleanup day along the river last fall as a separate service learning project.

Meanwhile, the second grade science curriculum focused on erosion. Miller and the teachers created a lesson on the erosion of the North River after Hurricane Irene in 2011. After learning about what caused erosion, the students made a plan to plant trees along the river.

“Service learning projects stick much more than other learning because there is purpose and agency,” Miller said. She stressed that creating a real-life connection to content from class helps the learning process. Miller pointed out that the bus driver told her that students talked about the service learning projects after school on their way home.

Students come up with ideas for the service learning projects themselves. The opportunity to do these projects is an attempt to show students how to find a problem in their community, and work on a solution from start to finish.

Miller said the projects she helps the students create involve place-based learning as well as teach about the environment.

“I hope that kids see this as a way to be part of the community, and find choices to make a difference,” she said.

The students also work with local businesses and neighbors.

“I hope the trees they planted will help with the erosion on my property,” Slowinski said.

On the same day, kindergarten and third-grade students gave pollinator plants, as well as information on gardening and art they created, to the entire student body at Colrain Central School. The plants were bought from Checkerspot Farm, a new farm in Colrain specializing in native plants.

According to Miller, one family cited the service learning projects as a reason why they chose to send their children to Colrain Central School through School Choice.

“Things don’t run without volunteers in a town this small,” Miller said. “People like seeing that kids are doing community service, and hopefully they will take this experience and contribute to the town throughout their lives.”

Contact Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or


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