Catfish Project Gets Students Thinking About Watersheds
The State Journal
25 February 2017
By Lauren McGill, The Herald-Dispatch
Southside Elementary School gained a dozen new wiggly youngsters
As part of the Classroom Catfish Project, which was funded by a
stream partners grant received by the Fourpole Creek Watershed
Association, channel catfish in a 60-gallon aquarium were
delivered to the school, much to the excitement of students who
will be responsible for their care.
A second aquarium setup was acquired for Meadows Elementary, which
also will receive 12 catfish to be monitored by students under the
supervision of teacher Amanda Vaughan.
The goal of the project is to get students thinking more about
water quality and the importance of local watersheds in protecting
the vital resource, explained Andrew Johnson, vice chairman of the
“There’s been success with other groups doing similar things with
trout, so we felt catfish would be a great opportunity locally
here,” Johnson said. “The streams around here can handle catfish,
and they’re tolerant of the aquarium setting, getting raised in an
enclosed system, but will have good survivability when they’re
The catfish also should grow noticeably in the time they will be
at the schools.
Second-grade teacher Courtney Cross said the students weighed all
the catfish before they were deposited into their new tank. As of
Feb. 22, the catfish averaged about 4 inches to 6 inches in length
and about 18 grams in weight, Johnson said. Students will weigh
them again before their release to see which fish grew and what
the average amount of growth was.
At Southside, fourth-graders will be paired with second-graders to
share the daily responsibility of feeding the fish, Cross said.
Students also will monitor the amount of pH and ammonia in the
tank weekly, which should help them understand the ways pollution
and environmental factors can affect fish and wildlife, she
After about eight weeks of monitoring and caring for the catfish,
students will release them back to Fourpole Creek.
“All that hopefully translates into getting them to think about
taking ownership of their watershed, too, as they take ownership
of these fish for a while,” Johnson said.
When the Watershed Association received the stream partners grant,
Johnson said they knew they wanted to put the money toward
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection partnered
with the group on the project, and permission for keeping and
releasing the catfish was granted by the state Division of Natural
Resources. Support was also given by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, and Johnson said Petsmart in Ashland, Kentucky, helped
the group stick to its limited budget in acquiring the aquariums,
food, filters and tank decorations.
Although students in certain grades will be more responsible for
the care of the fish, Cross said all of the students at Southside
will get to see the fish at school and will learn more during the
school’s Water Conservation Fair, which is set for March 16.
After the catfish are released into the creek, probably some time
in May, Cross said there is potential to get new, different fish
for the school’s aquarium.