Something fishy is going on in schools across the country, and this time it has nothing to do with mandates or testing requirements! Students from kindergarten to high school are raising fish in tanks in the classroom, and learning content and stewardship in the process. Conservation organizations and state natural resource agencies generally sponsor and support teachers as they raise local species such as trout, salmon, catfish, or shad with these educational programs. There may be no better way to connect school kids to nearby nature than with a “fish in the classroom” project.

As an example, Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a formal program sponsored by the conservation organization, Trout Unlimited. The basic procedure for TIC is to first acquire the proper equipment, including a fish tank and compressor, and then ask the state agency for fish eggs and permission to raise and release the trout. Keeping eggs viable, hatching fry (baby trout), and raising healthy fish all require attention to clean water and a watchful eye on water temperature. The little fish grow quickly and at some point in the spring, students take a field trip to a local, cold, freshwater stream or river to release their babies to nature.

Throughout the year of raising trout, teachers integrate all kinds of curricular activities with the project. Students must understand basic chemistry in order to maintain the correct pH in the tank, and collecting and graphing mortality and population data are an important way to measure success while applying math skills. Reading, writing, and art activities flow naturally from the projects, as student interest in learning about and sharing their connections to the fish remains high. The best projects include studying the ecology of the stream where the fish will be released. Students go to the stream to measure water quality and learn about the area’s community history as it relates to the stream. Nature connections run deep on trout release day; students feel strongly about the fish they have raised and want to release them into a clean stream. They remember the experience long after the release date.

Teachers who experience fish in the classroom programs have wonderful stories of their power. Seventh grade Life Sciences teacher Courtney Hallacher integrates Trout in the Classroom into her curriculum by connecting life cycle studies to water quality issues. Students learn how historic dams along the creek increase sediment and prevent trout from reproducing. Students keep science journals and make a class quilt representing the trout life cycle. Five years after one girl left Courtney’s middle school classroom, the student told her former teacher that the trout release day was one of her most memorable school experiences and that she “still found herself wondering how her trout were today.”  Courtney says, “My mind immediately captured the moment that she said ‘her trout,’ not our trout, not your trout, but ‘her trout.’  The student felt ownership over these organisms she helped raise for the majority of her 7th grade year in Life Science.” 

Helping students really connect to nature is not always easy for teachers, especially given the many standards and testing requirements they must address. Integrating living things, such as fish, with content teaching and authentic outdoor experiences may be the key. Check out several ‘fishy’ programs at: http://www.troutintheclassroom.org/ http://www.columbiasprings.org/sitc/index.html

Views: 774

Attachments:

Replies to This Discussion

Love this! Two weeks ago we let the salmon go after having been raised at the Rhomberg center - it was an amazing experience for the school kids. We have a book called "Out to Sea with Sally" and it teaches kids about how salmon go from fresh water to salt water and back again - living an anadramous life!

Stephanie:  I have seen tough-looking  guys in high school whisper to "their" fish as they let them go. I agree... it is amazing to watch kids during the release process.

Stephanie Rach-Wilson said:

Love this! Two weeks ago we let the salmon go after having been raised at the Rhomberg center - it was an amazing experience for the school kids. We have a book called "Out to Sea with Sally" and it teaches kids about how salmon go from fresh water to salt water and back again - living an anadramous life!

I am a teacher in colorado and we can not do the TIC program so I have contracted with the Division of Parks and wildlife to have students raise Roundtail Chubs. I knew very little about them but they are a species of concern in colorado and endangered in New mexico. The students raise and release them and throughout the year I come in a teach the nitrogen cycle in a closed system, fish anatomy and then we do some fishing for fake fish to learn how to identify fish. The kids love it and the teachers too. I have had students ask if I could come everyday. The tank itself is reported by teachers to be very calming in the classroom. Students will sit next to it and watch the fish while still paying attention in class. One school had several children with autism and downs syndrome. It was heartwarming to watch these kids with the fish and really pay attention when we were releasing them. they were so gentle. The aid said she had never seen them so focused. :)

So if your state does not allow students to release trout maybe you can follow this model instead. Thanks, Karen in SW Colorado

RSS

© 2019   Created by amy pertschuk.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service