Super Senior: Joe Mark

Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 5:21 PM EDT
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PLYMOUTH, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a field trip the kids of Ludlow Elementary School have been anxiously waiting for.

The school bus ride to nearby Plymouth has been a six-month journey for these students. Lisa Marks’ 3rd and 4th graders have been raising 91 trout eggs -- now juvenile fry -- and it’s release day at a branch of the Black River.

It’s part of a program called Trout in the Classroom that was introduced to the school 10 years ago by statewide coordinator Joe Mark. One day, Mark was reading Trout Unlimited’s magazine when he says he came across an article on the program. He went to his wife, a school teacher, and started it in her classroom. It’s gone from there to 93 schools throughout the state.

“I care about the environment and I want future generations to care about it. That can happen through this program,” Mark said.

Mark, a long-time academic dean at then Castleton State College, grew up in a more urban setting, Jersey City, New Jersey. When his father lost an eye in an industrial accident, the money from the settlement allowed the family to buy a camp in the woods. Since then, nature has become his second home. “The satisfaction that it’s making a difference for kids,” Mark said.

The future of these fish -- unlike the waters of the Black River -- are murkier. The students know that many will not survive. But today is a day to celebrate life. It’s about to become a banner day for Mark, as the kids present the 76-year-old with a handmade Super Senior banner.

“When you find something you love, like the outdoors or fishing, you might want to share that with other people. That’s kind of what I’m doing through this program,” Mark said. “When I see how kids get excited about this program, it really makes me feel like I’m spending my time wisely.”