When it came time on Wednesday morning to release the squirming, moss-green bodies of 400 rainbow trout into the Carson River, there were only a few criers.
For the group of Fritsch Elementary first- and second-graders, this is a great moment in their primary-education career. Teacher Regina Ford said it's all about the connections.
"They are growing it on their own, they are seeing it and experiencing it all on their own," she said.
The students raise the fish in their classroom as part of a project sponsored by the Nevada Division of Wildlife.
It's a process that started with hundreds of orange eggs dropped by clammy hands into two 10-gallon refrigerated tanks at Fritsch Elementary. The students checked the water temperature and pH level, and fed the baby fish, called fry. A month and a half later, those same hands are dropping the fish into a slow rolling river.
Some of the fish don't want to go. Jayson Artz, 7, watched his fish swim back toward him and the rocky part of the shore.
"Dad, can I pick him up again?" Jayson asked his father, one of the chaperones on the trip.
"No, let him go," said Jay Artz, who took a few hours off work at Carson Dodge to witness the culmination of this science program.
"He won't swim away," Jayson said.
"Catch him and put him in the current again."
Watching this made this father of four think about the future. In about 10 years, Jayson will be the one leaving the safety of home and family.
"I was just thinking about that - how time flies," Artz said.
A field trip such as this isn't just a rite of passage for 32 elementary school students, it's also a bittersweet moment for parents.
"I think he'll do well on his own," Artz said, while watching his gap-toothed child in glasses navigate the shallow water.
Many of the children had to wade out farther in their rain boots and push the fry out into the current.
"They are always welcome to come back," Artz said, then laughed.
Second-grader teacher Lori Tureson said children remember this experience. The other day, she had an eighth-grader return to see the hatching.
She said the trout program helps children break out from the normal egotistical stage of development and focus on a living thing and the environment it occupies.
"This helps them to understand the fragility of life," she said. "They see that 'if I do this, this is what is going to happen.' They learn responsibility and what they can control. Students really take ownership of the river after this."
Some of them realize that they are a little like the trout raised in a classroom.
"It's pretty just like me," said Maya Vasquez, 8.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Letters to a trout
from Fritsch Elementary School students:
I hope you come back some day. Make shure you do not get eated and look for food.
Love, Maya Vasquez, 8, Carson City
I hope you get lots of friends. I hope you get to be the queen of the ocean. I am happy that you have a boyfriend.
Love, Abby DePalma, 7, Carson City
I hope you like it in the river. Don't go near big fish because they will eat you. I am sad to let you go. Good-bye Stripes.
Love, Skylar Glock, 8, Carson City