SALEM TOWNSHIP – Billy Bob and Jim Bob went into the West Branch of the Carrabassett River on Thursday.

Numerous other small trout bearing similar names went with them when fifth-graders from Kingfield-area schools released the fish. The children had watched the trout grow from BB-sized eggs.

Since January, students at schools in Kingfield, Eustis, Strong and Phillips have taken part in Poland Spring Water Co.’s Trout in the Classroom project, which includes lessons on water quality, conservation and environmental impact.

Each classroom received a tank and about 300 fish eggs, Jason C. Libby of Poland Spring said. It was the second year in SAD 58 for the program, which has provided fish tanks in 11 schools in Maine, said Heather McBean, Poland Spring education coordinator and the driving force behind the program.

Trout in the Classroom was developed by the Portland Water District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“It seemed like a perfect fit for Poland Spring, because we are always looking for opportunities to give back to our communities in a meaningful way,” McBean said. “With Trout in the Classroom, we can help raise a generation of kids who care about the environment and understand their impact on water quality.”

Before each student named and released a small trout into the wild, the children moved around a field and a small pond near Mt. Abram High School learning about the water cycle and looking for bugs in the water to help determine water quality.

At the West Branch nearby, Mt. Abram High School students, who learned more in-depth lessons last fall from Mark Laplante, Natural Resource Supervisor for Poland Spring, shared their lessons with the younger students.

High-schoolers Joey Cousineau, Holly Thomas, Delanie Littlefield and Ellie Brooks helped students from Tom Piekart’s science class at Phillips Elementary School test the water temperature and discover the largest polluting source to streams before the next class arrived. At another station, freshman Dorothy Hinkley tested what they learned by asking for the answer: soil erosion.

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