Atoka GEAR UP students tour the Durant State Fish Hatchery

Seventy-seven GEAR UP students from McCall Middle School in Atoka recently visited the Durant State Fish Hatchery located near Durant. The seventh and eighth grade students toured portions of the 350-acre facility while learning the role of the largest hatchery in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

Students began the day exploring the catfish barn. Rebecca Fillmore, along with other hatchery technicians, described the process for researching and growing the millions of bass that are used to stock Oklahoma’s lakes. Fillmore showed students the different sampling nets used to catch fish and explained how each net was designed to catch specific species. After discussing other wildlife that can be found at the hatchery, students examined the small tanks used to raise koi, sunfish, and catfish. With the technicians’ guidance, students learned how to appropriately handle fish.

The tour continued with a visit to several of the reservoirs where Fillmore addressed the care and management involved in raising fish: proper aeration, water temperature, protection from predators, and feeding habits. After feeding the bass, the technicians explained how these same techniques could be utilized in common farm ponds and even aquariums. Fillmore encouraged the students to pursue careers in wildlife management and to fish.

“This trip was a great learning experience for our students,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell. “Exploring learning beyond the classroom is always beneficial to our students and can even be fun!”

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.

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