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Temperature and Trout in Class 4

As the Class 4 students made their way into Room 711, two gathered stacks of purple composition notebooks and swiftly distributed one to each seat.

“There’s a Do-Now on the board,” Middle School Science teacher Juliette Berg announced, motioning to the illuminated data tables behind her. Each student flipped open her notebook, turned to a blank page and began quietly copying down the tables.

“Are we going to see the trout today?” an eager student asked. The girls held their breath, anticipating the answer. “Yes!” Ms. Berg replied, eliciting happy cheers. The topic of fish referred to Class 4’s intriguing “Trout in the Classroom” project. 

After receiving fertilized eggs from the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery in November, the girls have learned various ways to monitor and care for the trout. They have now hatched into “alevin,” which initiated a water chemistry unit to study the aquarium’s water quality.

In the previous class, the young scientists examined the importance of ph. Today, they were tackling temperature. While working on the Do Now, Ms. Berg began passing out temperature probes, a small tool resembling a screwdriver but with a smooth rounded edge.

Next, students got into pairs and opened up their laptops. They pulled up a program called Vernier Graphical Analysis, a graphing tool that synced to their specific temperature probes. To practice collecting temperatures, students gripped the long silver end of the tool in the palm of their hands for two minutes. To their delight, a line appeared on the graph on their screen, tracking their hand temperature. “Make a note of the highest temperature your hand gets to,” Ms. Berg informed.

The room quickly became filled with loud and lively energy. A chorus of numbers rang out, as students declared their temperatures, each eager to have the highest in the class. “My highest is 32.5!” “Wow, I’m up to 37.4!” They fervently scribbled their data into Table 1 from their Do Now, noting any differences between their temperatures and their partner’s. 

For their next task, students were required to fill in an “action step,” an act to make their hands hotter or colder. Some opted to hold their hands over the radiator, others ran theirs under cold water and one student gripped Ms. Berg’s warm Starbucks coffee cup. Students were thrilled to gather different data with excited outbursts once again filling the lab as they recorded their findings in Table 2. 

After both data tables were completed, Ms. Berg posted four questions on the board for the class, now gathered in a circle on the floor, to discuss and analyze.

“What was surprising about this experiment?” she asked. 
“When trying to make our hands colder, it started out cold but quickly went back to a normal temperature,” one student offered. Ms. Berg nodded, saying, “Sounds like our bodies try to regulate our temperature.” The students continued to provide feedback and make connections to their previous studies. 

“Okay, now I want you to make a prediction,” began Ms. Berg. “Based on what you know, what do you think is the safest and best temperature – in degrees Celsius – for our trout water?” The students pondered for a moment. One scrunched her nose, deep in thought. 

One clever student rifled through her binder to retrieve her ‘Trout Lifecycle Packet,’ which she recalled using in a prior class. “It says it should be 51-60 degrees Fahrenheit,” she shared. “Perhaps there’s something in the room that can help you,” Ms. Berg prompted. Suddenly, the girls hurried over to the far side of the trout tank where a small temperature conversion chart hung. 

Each student wrote down her guess on a Post-it note and placed it on the board. “Good predications and smart guesses,” Ms. Berg commented as she eyed the choices. Finally, it was revealed that almost all students were correct. Water at 11-16 degrees Celsius will keep their trout happy and healthy. 

As the clock neared noon, Ms. Berg made a special announcement to the high-spirited class: “It’s time to see the trout!”  The students quickly formed into a line, and one at a time, climbed up a small ladder to take a peek into the insulation-covered tank. 

After a few moments of gazing in awe, the students hurried off to lunch, ready to return to continue their fascinating – and scientific – study of trout.