Lane GEAR UP students tour the Durant State Fish Hatchery

Thirty-seven GEAR UP students from Lane recently traveled to Durant to visit the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s fish hatchery. The seventh and eighth grade students toured the facility which is the largest of the four state fish hatcheries which produces millions of fish each year for stocking Oklahoma waters.

Rebecca Fillmore, a hatchery technician, greeted the students and gave a brief overview of the hatchery and its role in the Wildlife Department. She led the students to a reservoir where they observed the harvesting process. Intern Chelsea Griffith explained to the students how the reservoirs were drained, how the water was recycled, and how the fish were harvested. Students saw Griffith and other technicians catch the Japanese Koi fish in one reservoir and then release the koi into another reservoir for the production and growth of the hatchery’s primary resource, the Florida largemouth bass.

The next stop on the tour was the catfish barn where Fillmore discussed other wildlife that can be found at the hatchery. After learning about turtles and their identifying marks, students held several different live turtle specimens and determine their species. Students also interacted with frogs and learned to distinguish their different sounds. After releasing the frogs and turtles into a small creek, students finished touring the barn and netting young fish being grown in the indoor tanks.

Before leaving the group, Fillmore explained to students the possibilities of working for the Wildlife Department and discussed the education and credentials needed to become a technician.

“I want to work here one day,” said eighth grader Natalie Fritcher.

“Field trips are a great opportunity for students to learn outside the classroom,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell. “They discover that learning can be fun, too!”

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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