Call it a coincidence, or maybe even fate, but most everything fell into place during a trout release for Thompson Junior High School and Ridgeview High students on Wednesday morning at Hart Park.
The rain subsided, clouds parted and the sun shone for just over 100 students to take part in a hands-on science experience.
Michael Braiser, Thompson’s principal, smiled as he watched it all come together.
He had been a science teacher at Ridgeview, where he started the same type of science/trout-based program.
“It puts science to life,” Braiser said. “It really gives the opportunity to students ... to understand what goes into making sure that recreation and sustaining local wildlife, and the biodiversity that the river offers is just huge.”
The California Fish and Wildlife Department provided the trout to the classrooms. The fish came as eggs and the students helped them grow to the fry stage (the third of six stages) when they are ready to be released.
Thompson had planned to perform its trout release in Kernville, but the recent storms made the river too high there, Braiser said, and so the event was moved to Hart Park. Braiser said it was a coincidence that Ridgeview was releasing trout the same day.
The program at Thompson is voluntary for eighth-graders, said Emma Rodriguez, a science teacher at the school.
Wednesday was “kind of like the completion of the circle of life,” she said.
Braiser was excited and grateful that so many community partners could be involved in Wednesday’s trout release and help with some of the funding, including transportation for the field trip, which included a visit to the California Living Museum.
The African American Network for Kern County, the Buffalo Soldiers of Kern County and Aera Energy LLC were among the event’s community supporters.
Lani Garcia, a wildlife biologist and teacher at McKee Middle School, is a friend of Rodriguez and helped provide short wildlife lectures during the day. The Thompson students also learned from the Buffalo Soldiers, who provided history lessons of the soldiers’ role in the mid- to late 1800s. The group’s mission now is to help youth.
L. Dee Slade, president of the African American Network of Kern County, said she hoped the trout release would help feed the students’ interest in STEM education and career opportunities. She referred to the students as “agents of change.”
“This event is definitely impacting the community,” said Slade, 80. “The students are going to go home and tell their families. They’re the best messengers for our community to tell others about the environment.”
The Kern County Flying Fishermen gave instruction and tips for how to fish.
“I like that we get to learn about nature,” said Abraham Davila, an eighth-grader at Thompson. “We get to go outside and at the same time we get to release the trout.”
Ridgeview science teachers Esther Ibarra and Jose Valadez said it was great just having the students outdoors and taking in nature.
Many of the students had never been to Hart Park and many of them didn’t know of the “Killer Kern” nickname for the river, Valadez said.
“It gives them a real-world experience,” Ibarra said. “It’s great to see pictures, but to see the trout and come out to release them is a big ‘aha’ moment. ... Bringing them here they get a love for science. They talk about it for years.”
Ridgeview sophomores Xavier Chaplin, Sienna Jara and Christina Mixco took selfies as they released trout at the shore of the river.
Chaplin joked that a return to Hart Park would be a fun senior trip to check in on the fish.
“It was cool,” he said of releasing the trout. “They explained it to us real well so we know where the fish are going.”