Fifth-graders at West Friendship Elementary School recently completed two hands-on projects that emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem in our area.

For the first undertaking, 19 members of the school's Trout Club received a shipment of rainbow trout eggs from Trout Unlimited, a national nonprofit organization whose Trout in the Classroom initiative teaches children about stewardship, responsibility and interaction with the environment. Students monitored the rainbow trout hatchlings, recorded their growth and took water readings for three months, until the big day in April when the fish were released.

Members of the Trout Club, along with a group of fourth-graders from Swansfield Elementary School traveled to Brighton Dam Park in Montgomery County, where they met with representatives from Trout Unlimited and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The students participated in a series of fun, informative activities and then released their growing fish into the wild.

Although rainbow trout are not indigenous to Maryland, they have been around for some time, probably since the late 1800s, and are an important part of our local ecosystem. In fact, their presence indicates healthy waterways. Through its efforts, the West Friendship Elementary Trout Club has helped to keep our local waters stocked with a valuable species.

The entire fifth grade participated in the next project: a study of invasive plants and the impact these species have locally. The students began in the fall by using an environmental report card to analyze the school's walking trails. In the spring, they worked in small groups, each of which studied a particular type of invasive species, to learn how these plants arrived in our area, what impact they have on native species and the local environment, and how to safely remove the invasive plants.

Students presented their findings in May to teams of visiting dignitaries, including Master Gardeners, Howard County Public School System Central Office staff and representatives from the Howard County Conservancy. These judges commented on the students' depth of knowledge, their correct usage of vocabulary and the cooperation they demonstrated.

The project culminated a week later when the students teamed up with parent volunteers and Master Gardeners to remove invasive plants from a portion of the school's walking trail. They pulled and bagged the foliage, and then they transported it to the county recycling center for composting. As a result, native plants have more room to grow and thrive, and the students have learned by doing.

Speaking about fish and the Howard County Conservancy, our local environmental education center once again invites parents to Take Your Children Fishing on Father's Day weekend, June 15, at 10 a.m., at Lost Lake, in Patapsco State Park. Martha Shaum, from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, will team with Woody Merkle of the conservancy to teach about regulations, ethics and safety.

Fishing at Lost Lake is restricted to children between the ages of 6 and 15, and seniors age 65 and older, but teens and adults between the ages of 16 and 64 may assist the children. Registration is $5 per child for bait and the use of rod and reel. To register or learn more, go to http://www.hcconservancy.org.

The free Sykesville Cinema Outdoor Movie series will return with its second installment on Saturday, June 8. "We Bought a Zoo" will begin at dusk at South Branch Park, located at the end of West Friendship Road. For more information, contact Ivy Wells at 410-795-8959 or ivy@sykesville.net.

Don't forget — Relay for Life of Western Howard County will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7, at Western Regional Park. Come out to support the walkers and enjoy the fundraising entertainment! To learn more, go to http://www.relayforlife.org/westernhoward, or contact the Relay Committee at 410-781-4316 or jenny.hogg@cancer.org.