The Valley High School Sportsman's Club made their rounds throughout Wetzel County last week as they updated the county's commission and board of education on their recent trip to the mountains of West Virginia.
Environmental Earth Science Teacher Aaron Allen of Valley High School presented to the Wetzel County Board of Education June 2, beginning with a recap of the school's "Trout in the Classroom" program. Allen stated that the program is put on by Trout Unlimited, which is a nationwide club that works to have trout flourish in the streams of West Virginia and other states. Valley High School instructors made a connection with the program when looking for ways to support their outdoors club. VHS first made contact with West Virginia's Fly Fishing School Dean Bubba Holt, who then suggested VHS get involved with Trout in the Classroom, a program in which students raise brook trout from egg status to three-inch fingerling status.
Trout in the Classroom was in its second year at VHS this past school year, and Allen proudly stated that the students basically ran the program. "I set up the trout tank at the beginning of the year, and the students have to test for chemicals daily and clean tanks, and they raise trout from eggs to fingerlings. Then we take them out and let them go . . . We had brown trout for the past two years."
Chaperones and students pose for a photo during “Outdoor Odyssey.” (Photo provided by Kristi Earley)
Allen stated that Trout in the Classroom pulls in a lot of students that traditionally don't like science classes. "It's project based," he noted. "Students take care of everything, and I do nothing. Everyday they took care of it. Everyday they made sure the trout were fed and did water samples . . . It got a lot of students involved . . . Even over spring break . . . they really got behind the project in a way I didn't expect."
"It's a way to get hands-on science out there and project-based science out there," Allen stated. "The Sportsman's Club funded us this year and last year."
And a trip to the mountains to release the fingerling trout exploded into so much more this year as "Outdoor Odyssey," organized by The Sportsman's Club, was open to the entire VHS student body.
Sportsman's Club Advisor Kristi Earley stated that membership for the trip "was open to anyone."
She stated that students didn't have to belong to the Sportsman's Club. However, students were required to go through an application process, interview, and submit letters of reference. She stated that this method taught them "a life skill."
"We are pushing community service," fellow advisor and VHS Teacher Joshua Weekley agreed. "And if you want to earn a place on the bus, you have to show me."
Furthermore, students next year will be required to participate in five Sportsman's Club activities to help out with fundraising for the trip.
Earley told the commission June 3 that the group actually had "more activities planned than what time allowed."
Alexus Campbell, a VHS student who went on the trip, stated that some of Valley High School's 2014 seniors would like to go on next year's trip as honorary campers. Campbell was the trip's female most valuable camper, whereas Liam Midcap received the honor for the males.
Midcap noted that the brown trout that were released were some of the biggest and healthiest in the state and that all of them survived the trip.
The Sportsman's Club credits several groups and individuals for making the trip a success. Earley stated that several individuals took vacation days to be able to chaperone the trip, including Deputy Mary Bordenkircher, New Martinsville Police Officer Mike Owens, Billy and Melissa Midcap, and John Stevens. Also, Jeff Stine, husband of VHS Principal Jessica Stine, closed his business for two days to attend the trip.
Rex Rush of Hundred High School, along with Rich Hartzel of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources also volunteered their time for the trip.
The club also gave credit to the Wetzel County Board of Education, the Wetzel County Commission, the McGuane Foundation, Rick Barr, Jeff Earley, Bob Goontz, Mannington Shop and Save, and Carol Kelch.
At the June 2 board meeting, VHS Principal Jessica Stine stated that she wanted to brag "on the staff, parents, and students who planned this."
"I'm so proud of them," she stated. "It took very little effort on my part. I showed up and did whatever was needed. There is an enormous amount of planning by staff and school and contribution for paying for bus was enormous, and we appreciate all the people who did that. I brag about them wherever I go."