Voices from the River: The eggs have arrived

Fifth-grade students at Gilpin Elementary check out trout eggs that recently arrived. 

by Dan Omasta

It seemed like any other school day when Avery and Sammy stepped off the bus in the morning, except they knew this day was different. It was Tuesday--and that meant that the trout eggs had made the journey from Montana to Ms. Grenader’s science room. Finally, after weeks of learning about rivers, helping to set up pumps in the class tank, and performing routine water temperature tests, it was time to put the eggs into their new home.

The fish had come to Gilpin County, and the kids were ready. 

TU's Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is an environmental education experience that fosters hands-on learning through the rearing of trout from eggs to fry. The program provides K-12 students meaningful opportunities to apply relative topics taught in the curriculum to the life cycles emerging before them, as well as to the variety of challenges that arise out of maintaining a healthy environment for the growing trout. 

While the TIC program has been adopted on a robust level in many states, it is just beginning to emerge as a teaching tool for schools here in Colorado. In 2016, Colorado TU supported five sites around the state. In 2017, we expect that number to more than double, with TIC programs being adopted by teachers, TU chapters, and their local communities throughout the state. The sites will range from elementary school classrooms to college science labs and can be found across Colorado--from the suburbs of Aurora to the Grand Mesa on the Western Slope. 

As of early November, four Colorado classrooms have trout eggs in the water and several others are in the process of setting up their equipment. Once a site is ready, the rainbow trout eggs are shipped overnight from the Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana and arrive at the classroom early the next day. 

At the fifth grade science class at Gilpin County Elementary in Blackhawk, teacher Vanessa Grenader has been working closely with her students to carefully place the eggs in the tank. Some of the eggs are starting to hatch now--a small miracle that made a big impression on Avery Ramsey, a fifth-grader at Gilpin. 

“Our trout program in Gilpin is really cool," says Avery. "It is amazing to watch them grow. We learned about each stage in a trout’s life, and now we actually get to see it!”

Trout in the Classroom offers a high degree of flexibility for teachers when it comes to applying trout life cycles to the core curriculum. Lesson plans can be adapted to link learning objectives with “real world” outcomes.

For example, students at routinely help test the water quality of their tank, identifying potential issues (e.g., the water is becoming too acidic), using problem-solving skills to propose solutions (add “x amount” of a certain chemical compound), and charting the results over time (is the health of the fish or pH improving?). 

With any TIC activity, youth are encouraged to apply math and science concepts to actual problems, as well as identify challenges in their environment and take concerted efforts to solve them.

“I like testing the water to help keep the fish alive,” says one of the Blackhawk students.

“Trout in the classroom provides hands on, inquiry-based learning," said Grenader. "As a project-based teacher, this program fits into my curriculum perfectly. I am able to engage the students, and integrate the fifth grade science standards into the program seamlessly. My students feel like real scientists as they learn. Now, I can’t imagine a school year without our trout!”

TIC is not just helping to prepare the upcoming wave of engineers and scientists--it is also empowering the next generation of stewards.

To demonstrate the impacts that TIC is having in classrooms around the state, Colorado TU will be following the program in a handful of schools and providing regular updates from the field.

For more information on Trout in the Classroom, you can follow the links below, or contact Dan Omasta (domasta@tu.org) at Colorado TU.

Colorado TU TIC Program

National Trout in the Classroom Project

Dan Omasta is the grassroots coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited. 


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