State officials talk trout with Shrewsbury High School students

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State officials talk trout with Shrewsbury High School students
MassWildlife brought trout to the event. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler may have come to see the trout, but he left impressed with the students.

Tutwiler — alongside Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper — visited Shrewsbury High School on March 15 to learn about the Teaching with Trout program — MassWildlife’s environmental education curriculum — from students.

As the officials walked into science teacher John Brocki’s classroom, they were greeted by a handful of students, MassWildlife personnel and district leaders huddled around two tanks of trout.

The Teaching with Trout program — which 64 schools and 5,100 students participate in throughout the state — allows students to raise brook trout over the winter and release the fish into their natural habitat in the spring. In the process, students learn about their local environment.

Led by Brocki, who has taught in the district since 2014, the school’s Marine Biology Club manages the trout, which are delivered in December as 200 eggs. The trout develop in an in-classroom insulated tank, hatch in January and are released into the Assabet River before April break. Students monitor the fish and water throughout the entire process.

“The students really do most of the work on this. I really just advise them… They’ve done an excellent, wonderful job this year. You can tell, we’ve got some really fat bellies on our fish this year. They’re well fed, which increases the chance they’re going to survive when we finally do release them,” Brocki said.

State officials talk trout with Shrewsbury High School students
Students, educators and state officials gather in John Brocki’s classroom. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

Brocki works the trout into his lessons. The fish connect most easily into his AP Environmental Science classes, but Brocki is also able to creatively use the fish while teaching biology when demonstrating water quality or genetic abnormalities. Shrewsbury High School Principal Todd Bazydlo said that Brocki sends him photos every April of the Marine Biology Club releasing the fish into the wild.

“I think the biggest thing that makes Mr. Brocki stand out is that he holds students to high standards. He expects the best out of them. He pushes them to do their best, and he believes in them… He lets students take risks,” Shrewsbury High School Director of Science and Engineering David Hruskoci told the Community Advocate after the presentation.

Tutwiler and Tepper asked students questions about their experience with the Teaching with Trout program. Several students outlined how their interest in marine biology drove them to get involved with the fish. MassWildlife officials, who brought several full-grown trout for comparison, shared how they became involved with the organization.

State officials talk trout with Shrewsbury High School students
Students explain the Teaching with Trout program to state officials, MassWildlife personnel and Shrewsbury district leaders. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

The visit from Tutwiler and Tepper also highlighted Shrewsbury’s Innovation Career Pathways program.

Several students and educators involved with the biomedical science part of the program shared their experiences. The program seeks to expose students to a variety of potential career options, providing them with handson, real-world experience.

“They sound like they’re completely different programs. You have the trout program. How could that even possibly relate to biomedical sciences? The way they relate is because in both opportunities you’re seeing what’s out there outside of high school. Students are talking to people who work in the industry,” said Hruskoci.

“What an outstanding opportunity to have state leaders talk with students about their experiential-learning opportunities with our trout-raising program and also our biomedical pathways program. Just having them interact with our students was absolutely fantastic. I truly appreciate the secretaries coming out and taking the time and energy to talk to our students and staff,” Bazydlo said after the event.

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