Utah students raise trout in classrooms

LOGAN, Utah — Tiffany Kinder is one of several teachers throughout Cache Valley who are raising trout in their classrooms from egg to fingerling to teach kids about water quality, life cycles and the scientific method.

Earlier in January Cache Anglers, with the help of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, delivered containers of 300 trout eggs to six elementary schools and Logan High. The program, called Trout in the Classroom, allows students to observe the eggs as they hatch and eventually grow to between 2 to 4 inches. The classes will keep the fish until May, when many of them will be stocked in Wellsville Pond or Skylar Pond in Willow Park, reported The Herald Journal.

“They’re stocked into places where they could go and people can catch them,” Cache Anglers President Paul Holden said.

Until then, Kinder, a fifth-grade teacher at Park Elementary, has created lesson plans that incorporate the juvenile trout into the science and math curriculum. Recently, she taught her students about adaptations and camouflage: The top of a rainbow trout is dark, so birds can’t see them, and the bottom of the trout is white, so they can easily catch unsuspecting insects that reside on the river bottom. Most of the eggs in Kinder’s classroom hatched about a week ago, but half-inch-long baby trout are already starting to develop their coloring.

“I can see the black spots on them,” Asher Jordan, a fifth-grader, said after looking through a microscope at several tiny fish in a petri dish.

The baby trout aren’t able to feed themselves, so they absorb nutrients from their egg yolk. Kinder said it is similar to how chickens receive nutrients. Students will start feeding the fish once their yolk sacs are depleted.

Having an aquarium in the classroom has opened up real-life opportunities for data collection and interpretation. Kinder said students will be keeping science journals with fish counts and water quality tests, including ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and pH. Then they will learn how to graph the data on X-Y coordinates and observe trends.

Tracking water quality in the aquarium is then translated to real-world terms. Kinder explains that at even just a few parts per million, nitrogen can be harmful to fish. She said trying to imagine a million things can be “hard to wrap your head around,” so her students will conduct a lab.

They will drop food coloring into cups of water to illustrate the differences between parts per hundred, thousand and million. When they get to parts per million, the color is no longer visible. Kinder said the lesson is that pollution isn’t always visible.

“It doesn’t take very much pollution to start affecting the fish,” Kinder said.

Of the 300 eggs in Kinder’s aquarium, she said she expects around 20 or 30 to be alive in May. Kinder said this is consistent with nature. She explained to her students that humans usually have one baby at a time and provide a lot of care, but fish drop hundreds of eggs and don’t care for their young, so many of them die.

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