Oak Brook Trout Unlimited chapter continues effort to introduce state’s youth to trout

Jim Schmiedeskamp invited me out to catch a glimpse of what has become one of the best efforts in the state to get young people involved in fishing and the outdoors. The Oak Brook Trout Unlimiteds annual “Trout in the Classroom” program this year included 10 middle schools and high schools in Chicago’s western and south suburbs. 

All in all, more than 4,000 students have participated in the program since its introduction in 2005. 

Nationally, “Trout in the Classroom” started 20 years ago as a national TU grass roots environmental education program in which students in grades K-12 learn to raise trout from eggs to fry, monitor tank water quality, engage in stream habitat study, learn to appreciate water resources, begin to foster a conservation ethic and grow to understand ecosystems. Most six-month programs end the school year by releasing their trout in a state-approved stream near the school or within a nearby coldwater watershed.

Here in Illinois, the program is licensed by DNR, and each individual school and teacher is permitted by the state to rear trout in a tank.  However, they are not allowed to have any other plants or fish in the tank, for fear of potential contamination. The brown trout eggs and food are provided by the DNR at no cost.  The average cost to set up a program is approximately $1,200, which is covered by the Oak Brook TU chapter’s conservation and education budget.  

Each teacher in the program tailors the program to fit his or her curricular needs.  Therefore, each program is unique.

 “The beauty of the Trout in the Classroom program is its flexibility for each teacher,” said Marvin Strauch, Oak Brook TU youth education director.  “We have had participating school programs ranging from 4th grade through 12th grade.  However, right now, most of our programs are in 6th through 8th grades.  Personally, I think that is the sweet spot for our program.  The students are far enough along in their education to understand what we are presenting.”

Roosevelt Middle School aces trout class

More than 40 students from Cory Kadlec’s Roosevelt Middle School seventh grade science class concluded their six-month “Trout in the Classroom” program with the release of over 70 brown trout fingerlings in a coldwater spring creek near Rockford.  

Kadlec’s “Trout Team”— those students who volunteered out of 190 students across seven classes –  personally took responsibility for raising the brown trout from eggs to fry to their final “hands on” streamside release.

According to Kadlec, “The most important lessons provided by the program are: nature is accessible; middle school students can be interested in the exciting world of Life Science; middle school students can be advocates for coldwater fisheries now and into the future; and being involved with trout and other people who care about cold water fisheries can be inspiring and a lot of fun.”

Kadlec  marked his seventh consecutive year integrating the program  into his science curriculum, which included an April day when Minnesota entomologist Dean Hansen brought his “live bug” collection for his students to hold, inspect and identify by species.

Free monthly fly fishing classes

The Oak Brook TU chapter offers free introductory one-day youth fly fishing classes one Saturday each month through the summer.  The program, now in its 11th year, is open to boys and girls 11 years and older.  Participants receive an easy-to-understand overview to the sport of fly fishing.  

 All fly fishing equipment and fly tying materials are provided by the Oak Brook Trout Unlimited chapter.  There is no cost to participants.  Classes consisting of 15 participants are scheduled at the Camp Sagawau Environmental Education Center in Lemont.

For more information, visit www.obtu.org.

Categories: Blog Content, Gallery, Illinois – Ralph Loos

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