Recently, elementary students in three Oregon classrooms welcomed a few hundred special guests that required unique accommodations — a small refrigerator, a covered tank, gravel, and a water filter.
The students were part of an international fish education project that connected students in Oregon and Northern Ireland through the common experience of raising and releasing native trout.
Becky Flitcroft, a scientist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Corvallis Forestry Sciences Laboratory, is involved in the project dubbed Trout International.
“The children in these classrooms had an opportunity to learn about local conservation issues and how they are mirrored abroad,” Flitcroft said. “Beyond conservation, this was an opportunity to interact and learn about the history and culture of their respective communities.”
The program’s curriculum introduced them to local conservation topics with global relevance and to studies in trout life history, landscape change and invasive species. The 10-week experience kicked off with students at each of the schools receiving clusters of fertilized trout eggs to raise in special hatching tanks in their classrooms.
Oregon students hatched rainbow trout eggs, supplied by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program, while students in Northern Ireland hatched Dollaghan trout, a native and endangered species there, supplied by the Ballinderry Fish Hatchery.
Each school day, students in both countries monitored the condition of the trout hatching tanks and recorded their observations. They also designed special projects around the hatching experience, including keeping essay diaries of the developing fry. The project culminated for the students in the spring, when each classroom took a field trip to release their fry into a suitable pond or stream.
“The children were so excited about releasing the fish that they had spent so much time watching and caring for. It was wonderful to see them bring their enthusiasm and curiosity with them into the woods,” Flitcroft said.
Flitcroft and her colleagues are excited about the future of Trout International. Already, there is interest from other classrooms eager to participate in the project, and Oregon teachers are planning to incorporate the experience into other parts of their curriculum.