by Gregory Andrew
Over the last month, 61 classes from Marin County’s elementary and middle schools have been releasing trout that they hatched and raised for two months in their classrooms as part of the Trout in the Classroom program, a partnership between Marin’s public and private schools, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), Trout Unlimited, and Marin Municipal Water District.
Trout in the Classroom is a national program designed to help school kids learn about the value of aquatic environments, the balance that must be met to maintain and preserve fisheries and aquatic habitats, and how their personal actions affect these valuable resources. The program gives children the opportunity to raise and learn about the life history and habitat requirements of rainbow trout and salmon. Aquariums are set up in classrooms, trout eggs are delivered to each class (provided by the local DFG hatchery), the eggs develop and hatch, and the kids raise the baby fish for about two months until they grow to fingerling size. Then the kids release the young fry into Lake Lagunitas, Bon Tempe Lake, Phoenix Lake or Scottsdale Pond.
The program in Marin has been running for five years and has grown from 24 classes during the 2006-2007 school year to 61 classes during 2010-2011. More than 1,200 kids participated in the program this year, as did their teachers and many parent volunteers. Also this year, Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke traveled to the watershed on a rainy day and released a fish!
The program is coordinated by DFG’s Fishing-in-the-City staff. Trout Unlimited volunteers do the brunt of the work with the classes by setting up and checking on the aquariums and acting as mentors to the teachers and students. MMWD initially helped purchase the aquariums and chillers for the classrooms, and district staff have assisted with the program each year. MMWD’s fishery biologists provide training to the teachers, giving them a presentation on salmon and trout ecology. They also help to coordinate the fish release field trips, which is a highlight of the year.
Teachers say the kids are both happy and a little sad to release their fish, who many have named and even written poems about. They all seem to enjoy their field trip to the release site and are thrilled to see their fish swim away, heading to a life downstream.