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Classroom Happenings: Sixth-Grade Science Class

The Steward School
Exploring the wonders of science

Things have been going swimmingly for sixth graders in Middle School Science Teacher Claire Bailey’s class this spring. The students, along with their third-grade “brook trout buddies,” participated in the Trout in the Classroom program, a national initiative that encourages students to make connections between trout, water resources, the environment, and themselves. The sixth-graders raised brook trout from eggs to juveniles in a tank in Mrs. Bailey’s classroom. Over the course of seven months, they studied the species, the local watershed, and the importance of sustainability within an ecosystem. 

“In addition, my students and their buddies tested the tank’s water quality and kept journals about our trout,” said Mrs. Bailey. On March 6, she and her students, plus third-grader Patrick Bulger, ’32, released approximately 50 brook trout, a species native to Virginia, into the South River in Waynesboro, Va. This in-depth study encouraged students to explore topics that define our time and hone their critical-thinking skills. 

Aaliyah Ladak ’29 said she enjoyed learning about the life cycle of brook trout and the importance of protecting the species. “It was heartwarming to release the brook trout into their home. I’m going to miss them, but I know they have a good home.” 

Along with the release, the sixth graders were involved with an additional focus to their studies: public service. First, they created colorful informational cards with facts about brook trout to share with the public. With approval from the City of Waynesboro Parks and Rec department, the students installed mailboxes throughout the park and filled them with the cards. 

On the Fly 
Also as a culminating activity, students learned the skill of fly fishing and even made their own flies with the help of some avid fly fishers: Upper School Mathematics Teacher Barbara Filler, Britton Hewit ’28, and Britton’s father, Tad Hewit. Outside the Bryan Innovation Lab, they practiced casting with fly rods and created their own flies using peacock and rooster feathers, pipe cleaners, and even some sequins. Mrs. Bailey said, “Britton said that many of the flies that were made were ones that he would use to try to catch a brook trout!”

Biome Trip 
On a more national scale, the students wrote letters to a national park of their choice as part of a biome trip project. Students chose a biome (an area classified according to the species that live in that location) in the United States and planned a virtual “trip.” They were responsible for noting all the details in their journals: lodging, transportation, activities to immerse themselves in (for example: sled-dog rides in the tundra of Alaska), information about native animals and plants that they might see, and a visit to a national park. 

“With the help from Middle/Upper School Librarian Crystal Hamlin, the students wrote letters to their chosen park asking the rangers about their favorite spots, coolest animal encounters … and even if the ranger would excuse them from homework assignments!” said Mrs. Bailey. Several weeks later, most of the students received letters and packages from the parks that included maps, stickers, and junior-ranger guidebooks. 

Tristan Roush ’29 chose Crater Lake National Park, which is located in southern Oregon. 

“I wrote a letter to the ranger and I asked what animal attacked people the most,” said Tristan. “He said ground squirrels attacked the most. When I got that letter from the ranger, I felt amazed … I thought he was not going to send one back, but he did.” Tristan added, “He also sent me an information packet, coloring book, map, and poster, plus a very thoughtful letter. The best part of this project was writing to the park ranger and getting a letter in return.”

Mrs. Bailey said, “The joy on my students’ faces when they found out they had received mail was immeasurable. They were so excited to see their goodies and share them with their classmates. Packages came in from all corners of the United States, including Shenandoah, Everglades, Denali, Acadia, and Haleakala National Parks!” 


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