Trout in the Classroom

Middle school students are getting a chance to see firsthand how healthy ecological systems maintain quality of life by raising trout in the classroom and eventually releasing these fingerlings, as the young fish are called, into their natural habitat. Andrea Maruskin, 6th grade science teacher at Monocacy MS says her trout project fits nicely into the unit she teaches on modern ecosystems and the interdependence of organisms. She was introduced to Trout in the Classroom, a program sponsored by Trout Unlimited nine years ago by a parent who was a fly fisherman.

Anna Feuer, Carmen Vega, Amy Lee, Aishwarya Balamurugan, 6th Grade students at Monocacy Middle School explain their trout project at the FCPS Environmental Expo. (photos by Gillian Grozier)

The Mid-Atlantic Council of Trout Unlimited reports similar cold-water conservation efforts in 83 schools and three environmental centers throughout Maryland and has similar programs in over twenty states throughout the U.S.

“This program has really been so successful thanks to the many volunteers (both parents and Trout Unlimited members) who totally support what we are doing and offer so much to teachers,” Maruskin said. “The volunteers also make great role models.”

The original 75 gallon fish tank now in the classroom was donated by a parent and Maruskin has since written grants to replace the filter, chiller, aeration system and other equipment needed to maintain a healthy environment for the fish inside the tank. The efforts to raise money has included a Bills for Gills fundraiser that netted $350 in small change, at the same time increasing awareness for the classroom project.

Maruskin’s 6th grade class received 150 fish eggs from Trout Unlimited last December and tended the newly hatched trout so well that only seven were lost before their release into a Doub’s Meadow Park, Myersville creek on April 12th.

Maruskin works closely with Susan Lakomy, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at St. John Regional Catholic School with a similar program in place for the past four years. Trout in the Classroom is part of Lakomy’s 7th grade life science curriculum. She said her students are educated to take full responsibility for the welfare of the fish. Organized into teams, the students come to school early to complete assigned water testing, tank cleaning, recording of fish behavior, and monitoring of water temperature.

“The project is completely in their hands,” Lakomy, [pictured above] said. At the same time, teaching a unit on ecology, Lakomy has students create ecosystems to test for the effect on the environment of everyday pollutants like salt, sand, and fertilizer. Her class released their fingerling trout during a field trip on May 30.

Asked about changing attitudes long term towards the environment, Lakomy says she has her students map their own ecological footprints and examine their own practices for water consumption, waste, and use of everyday pollutants. She asks her students: “How many of you would be willing to change your habits to have a more sustainable world?” She says such questions can spark a discussion on ethics and responsibility and even the presence of a bacteria bloom can become a good teaching aid.

Maruskin is enthusiastic, too, about the impact of environmental education on her students. “They are not only asking questions (about environmental impact) but asking where they can find answers and what they can do about it,” she said. Her students are now showing interest in air quality, specifically in the effects of exhaust that comes from automobiles and idling buses. “Having raised awareness about water quality through the imaginative Trout in the Classroom program, my students are taking that knowledge and applying it more broadly,“ Maruskin said.


This was originally published here.

More by Gillian-Grozier at The Frederick Extra.

Trout in the Classroom on the web

Trout in the Classroom on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

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