by Scott Hood
Trout in the classroom coordinator
In 2008, while I was waiting for a classroom to hold a Tulsa Fly Fishers and Oklahoma Trout Unlimited monthly meeting, I noticed a sign in the hall. Tulsa Public Schools biology and science teachers were holding a meeting near us. I just happened to have a couple of Trout Unlimited brochures with me and somehow trapped several teachers as they exited from the room. “Would any of you be interested in hosting a Trout in the Classroom program in your classes next year?” I shouted as they scurried off in every direction after their meeting adjourned. As luck would have it, I handed out two brochures with a brief explanation of the program and how to get back in touch with me.
Nearly three years went by and my phone rang. “I’m interested in learning more about this Trout in the Classroom program you offer,” said Diana Nunes, biology teacher at East Central High School. I asked her, “How did you hear about the program?” Yes, I had handed her one of those brochures and today we have great history still going forward.
In the fall of 2012, Ms. Nunes hosted the first ever Oklahoma Trout in the Classroom program at East Central High School and this year, 2015, she will be hosting her third of four trout tanks in her classes at Union High School in Tulsa. To date, the program has grown to five high schools and a middle school in the Tulsa area. Now held at Union High School (3 years), Catoosa High School (2 years), Broken Arrow High School (3 years), Jenks High School (1 year), Beggs Middle School (1 year) and still at East Central High School (4 years).
Trout in the Classroom is a conservation-oriented environmental education program for elementary, middle, and high school students. Through the school year, students raise the trout from eggs to fry fingerling and then release them into approved cold water streams and lakes. This act of raising, monitoring, and caring for young trout fosters a conservation ethic within participating students and promotes an understanding of their shared water resources.
During the year each teacher tailors the program to fit his or her curricular needs. Therefore, each program is unique. TIC has interdisciplinary applications in science, technology, recreation, engineering, arts and mathematics and is now known by the acronym STREAM. While the immediate goal of Trout in the Classroom is to increase student knowledge of water quality and coldwater conservation, its long-term goal is to reconnect an increasingly urbanized population of youth to the system of streams, rivers, and watersheds that sustain them.
Most programs, of which there are nearly 4,500 across America now, end the year by releasing their trout fingerlings in a state-approved stream near the school or within a nearby watershed. In Oklahoma, our program has permission from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Management to release the trout from all these programs in the lower Illinois River below Tenkiller Dam. These school-year ending field trips to the river are much anticipated by the students and from day one are each encouraged to maintain a good grade average in all classes in order to be able to go on the release day field trip.
As of the printing of this article, over 1,500 students across these six Tulsa area schools have participated in this conservation minded program.
For more information on Trout in the Classroom, or if you would care to donate to help continue and grow this program, contact Scott Hood at 918-636-6179. Details of the national Trout in the Classroom program can be found at www.troutintheclassroom.org.