Trout in the Classroom Program Overview

By Tom Gamper

MDTU Youth Education Coordinator

(abridged)

Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a hands-on environmental program in which students raise Kamloops rainbow trout from eggs to fingerling, manage chilled tank water quality, engage in stream habitat study, learn to appreciate water resources, develop a conservation ethic, and are taught to understand ecosystem connectivity. Since our first year of involvement in TIC, the program has grown from four schools to fourteen in the Baltimore Region. In the same period, the statewide participation has expanded from forty to over sixty schools and environmental centers. This remarkable growth can be attributed to the program’s pre-developed curriculum with interdisciplinary components that can be easily and quickly introduced into a school’s academic offerings. Also contributing to this growth is Maryland’s systemic environmental literacy requirements.

 

Numerous partnerships have emerged as a result of this programmatic success. Locally, MDTU has become a strategic partner with the Carnegie Institution for Science, the National Aquarium, Bluewater Baltimore, and Earth Force. Joining us for the first time this year is the Parks and People Foundation, which sponsored its inaugural program at Franklin Square Elementary Middle School as part of their Children and Nature outreach directed by Mary Hardcastle, who is now doing the same advocacy on behalf of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. 

 

 On the state level, TIC continues to receive indispensable assistance from the Department of Natural Resources. Marshall Brown at the Albert Powell State Hatchery donates over 9,000 trout embryos to the program, and Rich Bohn and Mark Staley in Freshwater Fisheries coordinate aqua-culture and stocking permits for the raising and release of the fingerling. This teamwork, embodied in the program, is due to the outstanding organizational skills of our state TIC liaisons, Jim Greene and Chuck Dinkel of the Potomac Patuxent Chapter. In the past eleven years, this duo has developed a “how to manual” for raising trout in Maryland classrooms and compiled an extensive list of trouble shooting quick responses for addressing a wide array of problems. They have also assembled a seven-region “pony express” system for the annual delivery of the eggs in early January. One “point person” leaves the State Hatchery with all the eggs for the schools in a given region and is met subsequently by others who will deliver the eggs to their final destination. 

  

The strength of TIC as a teaching tool is evident in the recognition it has received in participating schools on the state and local levels. This year, Rebecca Sanders of Crellin Elementary School in Oakland, Maryland, was one of eighteen U.S. teachers to receive a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Her students have used TIC to focus on acid mine drainage and to study ecosystem management on Snowy Creek. Closer to home, Stephen Knott, a teacher at Armistead Gardens Elementary Middle School and MDTU member, was his school’s “Teacher of Year.” His classroom is a virtual Chesapeake Bay watershed in miniature – with aquariums containing cold water upstream species and those with brackish water species of the Bay itself. He also has a website and blog which chronicles the raising of their trout. Even more heartening is that both of these recognized teachers are faculty at Title 1 schools -- that is, the majority of their students come from low-income households.