Trout In the Classroom
EDTU participates in and supports a national TU initiative called Trout in the Classroom. It is one of Trout Unlimited’s environmental education programs and is a gateway stewardship experience for students. It fosters a new generation of advocates for salmonids and the watersheds in which they live. EDTU is proud to support the enhancement of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics curriculums throughout the Chicagoland area.
As of the Fall of 2023, EDTU currently works with five active TIC programs. Two of these programs are in high schools, Social Justice HS in Chicago, and Niles West HS in Skokie (new this year). The other three are Waters Elementary School (new), St. Alphonsus School, and Midwest Academy for Gifted Children, all located in Chicago. One school, St Alphonsus, has run a highly successful program for several years, and its teacher, David Kunkle, was a featured speaker at an EDTU chapter meeting last winter and was enthusiastically received.
Program Overview: Trout in the Classroom
Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a “hands-on” program that allows students of all ages to raise trout from eggs to fingerlings in a classroom setting and then releasing the fingerlings to a state approved lake, river, or stream nearby. Having the opportunity to observe and care for the growth cycle of a trout fosters an interest in conservation in the students, and physically releasing fingerlings into a nearby cold water system establishes a connection between the fish and the local cold water environment. The teacher is the center of a TIC program, which can be adapted by any teacher in any classroom as a supplement to his or her existing classroom curriculum. The program has proven successful with students from kindergarten, where they learn the basics about life cycles of fish, caring for their growth, the effect of various weather and seasons, etc., to high school students that might explore water chemistry, natural resource management, and water geology and ecology. All students learn the connections between the trout, cold water resources, the environment and themselves. While TIC offers a great number of options and examples as to how the program may be used, ultimately the teacher is free to adapt the program in any way that is best for their students. At all levels however, it is necessary to keep count of the eggs and formally tracking them during their growth including, at a minimum, the feeding, monitoring water temperature and chemical levels, maintaining the equipment and keeping the tank clean.
Program Facilitation and Chapter Involvement
TIC is an existing standalone program that is facilitated by organizations that are encouraged by the program’s educational value and its relationship to cold water conservation. Trout Unlimited (TU) is one of many organizations helping to facilitate TIC. For example, our chapter, Elliott Donnelley Trout Unlimited (EDTU), works with interested local teachers to start and maintain the TIC program in their schools. In some cases we might help the teacher set up a program from scratch, providing and setting up all the equipment and possibly suggesting sources for various teaching options. In other cases, we might work with schools that may have established chemistry or biology programs already in place. An example of how our chapter (EDTU) develops and coordinates the program starts with identifying interested teachers and schools. This usually is done through word of mouth, and it often hinges on the school’s financial and physical ability. Some schools may have or are willing to fund their own equipment, however, when a school is enthusiastic about the program but doesn’t have the budget, our EDTU chapter will provide all the equipment, including a 50-gallon tank, chiller, filter, and other ancillary items for as long as the school’s program continues. The initial cost of this equipment ranges from $1,500 to $2,000, and our chapter has committed to purchasing one new set-up a year if the need arises.
The TIC Journey in Schools
Once a teacher/school is identified and is registered with the Illinois DNR, and their equipment is in place, the EDTU TIC coordinator will order eggs for them and the other chapters’ schools. Around mid to late November, the Illinois DNR provides about 150 – 200 eggs (per 50-gallon tank), which the EDTU coordinator and helpers will distribute to each of these schools. Once received, the students will record the number of eggs, and they will be placed in a dark, netted section of the tank. Over the next couple
of weeks, these eggs will hatch and swim into the tank itself. At this time the students will begin to feed, monitor, and document their growth as directed by their teacher. EDTU is usually not involved during this period unless any issues develop. In the Spring, however, members of our EDTU chapter again become involved in helping with the release of the fingerlings, which by then can be 2 – 4 inches long. Because our EDTU chapter is located in Chicago and the near north suburbs, these releases are only done into approved Lake Michigan sites. These spring releases are always highly anticipated events attended by the students, teachers, and many of the students’ parents. From the perspective of those EDTU members who have been personally involved in this program, there is an undeniable satisfaction in seeing the awe and excitement that these students exhibit throughout the duration of this program, regardless of age.
Current Programs and School Partnerships
As of Fall 2023, EDTU works with five active TIC programs. Two of these programs are in high schools, Social Justice HS in Chicago, and Niles West HS in Skokie (new this year). The other three are Waters Elementary School (new), St. Alphonsus school and Midwest Academy for Gifted Children, all located in Chicago. We also lost one previously active program this year when a teacher moved. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon since TIC programs rely heavily on a specific teacher. One school, St. Alphonsus, has run a highly successful program for several years, and its teacher, David Kunkle, was a featured speaker at a EDTU chapter meeting last winter, and was enthusiastically received.
Support EDTU's Trout in the Classroom Program
Volunteer with EDTU: Become an active volunteer and contribute directly to the success of Trout in the Classroom. To join EDTU as a member and start making a difference, visit our membership page. For more information or specific inquiries, feel free to reach out through our contact us form.
Make a Donation: Your financial support is crucial for the continuity and expansion of the Trout in the Classroom programs facilitated by EDTU. Consider donating to EDTU or participating in our fundraising events. Every contribution helps us bring this enriching program to more schools. Donate here.
Spread the Word: Help us expand our reach! If you know of a school or teacher in the Chicagoland area that would benefit from Trout in the Classroom, please share information about our program with them. All necessary details are available on this webpage and the official Trout in the Classroom website. To facilitate connections with new schools or teachers, contact us.
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