Schools across the U.S., including many in Georgia, are participating in Trout in the Classroom. This environmental education program of Trout Unlimited teaches students to raise trout from eggs to fry, monitor tank water quality, engage in stream habitat study, learn to appreciate water resources, foster a conservation ethic and learn to understand ecosystems.
Trout in the Classroom has been in Georgia for 12 years. Rodney Tumlin, the state council coordinator for Trout in the Classroom and also the leader of the Cohutta Trout Unlimited Chapter, says there are currently 32 active classroom programs in Georgia, and his chapter supports eight.
“The chapters provide the equipment, the eggs, and the technical support. Basically, the cost to set up a classroom is $1,500, which includes the aquarium, the stand and the chiller,” said Rodney.
The chiller costs the most but is critical, since trout are a cold water species, he said.
“Then it’s about $250 to maintain it every year after that for the supplies, chemicals and a portion of eggs. The individual chapters take on that cost.”
Trout in the Classroom can be in both public and private schools, wherever a teacher is found.
“It used to be most often at the middle school level; however, with our chapter now we do all high school,” Rodney said. “Basically, you have to find a teacher because the curriculum can be adjusted from early childhood. You can adjust your lessons based on the grade level of your students and their abilities.”
The purpose of the program is to introduce students to cold-water conservation. They learn the life process of trout. Rodney says there are so many lessons you can do in the science field alone, and that the culminating activity is the actual release of trout into a suitable waterway.
Trout in the Classroom promotes learning in a diversity of subjects, he said.
“You have biology, ecology, environmental science—and chemistry because you have to constantly check the water—and then there is a math portion of it. A lot of people also use art and writing lessons with it, too,” said Rodney. “It’s a multidisciplinary opportunity for the schools that use this program.”
Students are able to see an entire life cycle of trout in a years time. They hatch the trout and watch them grow and then release them back into a trout stream.
The eggs come from a certified trout hatchery, where the eggs are certified to be disease free. Most chapters purchase trout eggs from Trout Lodge in Washington state, and then they are shipped here, says Rodney.
“The eggs are developed to the point where you can see the eyes of the fish. They come to the classroom within a couple of weeks ready to hatch. So we have our mini trout hatchery set up, and the eggs are placed into a hatching basket. The water is circulating at the right temperature because trout eggs need water moving over them to hatch properly,” Rodney said. “We take them from eggs, they hatch out, and we get them up to the fingerling state, then we release them into local trout streams anywhere from the Chattahoochee River for some counties to the Toccoa River for Fannin County schools. Here in Paulding County we released them into Raccoon Creek, which is a little-known trout stream in Paulding County.”
Trout in the Classroom is supported by Trout Unlimited at the state and national levels.
“It helps reinforce the understanding that we need to protect our resources and cold clean water,” said Rodney. “It creates an understanding among students that this is something that is important.”
Trout in the Classroom is a neat program for students to participate in. For more information on the program or on how to get a classroom started, visit www.troutintheclassroom.org.