Have you ever held a juvenile brook trout in your hand?
Up until last week my answer to that would have been no.
This week was the huge culmination of work going on in K-12 classrooms across the country.
Trout in the Classroom is an environmental education program in which students in grades K-12 get the chance to raise trout from eggs to fry (a juvenile fish).
These students are responsible for caring for the fish, monitoring tank water quality, and learning about stream habitats.
This truly unique program fosters a conservation ethic and provides a firsthand look and appreciation for water resources and all those who depend on them.
Most programs end the school year by releasing their trout in a state-approved stream near their school or within a nearby watershed.
During the year, each teacher tailors the program to fit his or her curricular needs and therefore, each program is unique. This in turn provides younger generations with new skills and knowledge to help ensure healthy waterways and robust trout populations in the future.
The eastern brook trout is often regarded as an aquatic symbol of fresh, clean water. Water quality issues and loss of habitat have contributed to decline of this species over time.
Partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are actively pursuing projects to identify barriers to fish passage, open up more waterways to improve aquatic connectivity in the state, and implement restoration and habitat improvement projects to support sustainable brook trout populations.
Being the State fish of New York, brook trout have a long history of being a part of the complex waterways of the State.
Trout in the Classroom offers the opportunity for students to get their feet wet, literally, in the world of wildlife and environmental conservation.
The actions taken to promote diverse fisheries and help conserve a species that needs our help are just a few of the larger rewards students gain from participating in a course like this.
The goals for this project stem from a place of stewardship.
Classroom aquariums provide a direct platform for hands-on learning that can enhance and engage students in not only environmental science and mathematics, but social sciences, fine arts, and physical education.
I spoke with a few students and this is what they had to say about the project,
“Watching the fish get bigger was fun. We would come in to class, check on them, make sure they looked healthy, and kept their water clean. It’s exciting to release them, but I will miss them.”
Trout in the Classroom fosters sensitivity about the importance of our shared water resources by engaging students directly. The more we can bring that level of excitement to students the more they can grow to be lifelong proponents of environmental stewardship and conservation.