Trout in the Classroom Program Overview

By Tom Gamper, Tom Giannacinni, and Jim Tingey

MDTU Youth Education Volunteer Leads

 

MDTU currently supports a Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program for grades 3 through 12. All equipment, supplies & fish food are paid for by Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grants and private funding so there is no direct cost to the schools to participate. Trout Unlimited volunteers do much of the legwork to make the program possible. Teachers and volunteers attend an annual TIC orientation seminar for a day of free comprehensive training. A TIC Teachers Guide is provided that provides great detail on all aspects of the program. The program starts in early December with egg delivery. Rainbow trout eggs from a DNR hatchery are delivered to participating schools by volunteers. Each school receives about 150 to 175 eggs. We are always looking for more volunteers to deliver eggs; it takes about two hours, so is an easy and fun way to help out.

 

Once in the classrooms, the eggs are placed into nursery baskets in a 55-gallon chilled aquarium. The students care for the eggs, as they grow into alevins and fingerlings. The program is designed to support science curricula with hands-on learning. Students test the water chemistry for pH, nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia and monitor temperature. They also perform necessary regular maintenance to control water quality, vacuuming the bottom of the aquariums to remove waste and uneaten food, adding water to keep levels consistent, etc. Through these activities participants learn about the ammonia-nitrogen cycle and add bacteria to keep the systems healthy. Students record readings, water change schedules and bacteria additions on a data sheet. They are encouraged to solve problems that arise during the program on their own, teaching critical thinking skills.

 

In the spring, class trips are organized to a designated DNR release location, typically a healthy stream in the community nearby the school. The 2-3” fingerlings are transported in an aerated cooler. Streamside, students participate in various hands-on ecological activities, including fish habitat, stream health and water chemistry assessment, macro invertebrate collection and identification (to see what trout will be eating in their new environment) and then the fingerlings are released. Often TU volunteers will also share information about fly fishing at these events too, offering basic casting instruction, demonstrating how fly patterns imitate trout food sources, and discussing responsible angling practices.

 

This past TIC release season (spring of 2019) in the Baltimore area supported by MDTU, fifteen schools from Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County released 1,307 fingerlings.

To-date, participants in the 2019-2020 TIC season include:

Baltimore City (7): Academy for College and Career Exploration, Baltimore Lab School, Boys Latin School of Maryland, Connexions Academy, Hampden Christian School, Parks & People Foundation, Roland Park Elementary/Middle School;

Baltimore County (14): Elmwood Elementary School, Garrison Forest School, Irvine Nature Center, Jemicy School, Lutherville Laboratory School, Maryland International School, Maryvale Preparatory School, Odyssey School, Overlea High School, Ridge Ruxton School, Western School of Technology, Woodlawn Middle School;

Harford County (2): Bel Air High School, North Harford High School

 

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of starting a new TIC program in your child’s or grandchild’s school, now is the time to get your Science Teacher & Principal on board for next year. MDTU can arrange for teachers to visit and talk with current participants to learn more.

We also welcome volunteers to support all aspects of the program. No special expertise is required; training is provided.

 

Contact one of the lead MDTU TIC volunteers:

 

Tom Gamper: tgamper@smp-architects.com

Jim Tingey: tingeyj@comcast.net

Tom Giannaccini :tomgiann@verizon.net

 

 

Previous overview:

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.