Trout in the Classroom
Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a national, even global, program that allows students to raise trout fingerlings from eggs in a classroom aquarium. This hands-on learning promotes environmental stewardship and teaches students about the many facets of coldwater conservation.
In 2006, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited secured a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Sportfishing and Aquatic Resources Education grant to develop TIC in Pennsylvania. Since then, the program has grown exponentially across the state!
Mountain Laurel Trout Unlimited is involved because it recognizes the value of such a program. As it has been said many times, TIC is not a stocking program, but one that supports coldwater conservation. While progress in restoration has been made, much work remains and stewardship is essential. Young people need to understand the problems facing our coldwater resources in order to create solutions and continue our work. Where better to do develop this understanding than in local classrooms with children who have seen “good” and “bad” streams?
Melissa Reckner, director of the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, has taken the lead coordinating TIC projects in Somerset and Cambria County schools. She works with the dedicated teachers to expand upon the daily care and maintenance, for which the students are responsible, and to delve into topics like abandoned mine drainage, watersheds, wetlands, and macroinvertebrates. MLTU members often demonstrate the fine art of fly-tying in the classrooms and help with the release of surviving trout.
Approximately 250-300 trout eggs are shipped to participating schools in October or November, and they are put in a 55-gallon aquarium, complete with a filter and chiller for these coldwater fish. They soon hatch and begin morphing into recognizable brook trout. Brook trout are used for this project, since they are the only trout native to Pennsylvania streams.
Throughout the school year, students monitor the aquarium’s function and water quality, as well as the physical and behavioral characteristics of the trout. Students also feed the fish, clean the aquarium, maintain the equipment, and perform daily water changes. In the spring, surviving trout are released into a state-approved body of water. Sometimes it’s hard to say good-bye to those easily recognizable fish, like “Whopper,” “Big Mac,” and “Boomerang!”
Below is a list of schools involved in MLTU’s TIC projects.
North Star East Elementary School
MLTU and North Star were one of only six organizations to receive a grant from the PA Council of Trout Unlimited to implement TIC during its inaugural year (2006-2007) in Pennsylvania. MLTU provided the matching funds necessary and Ms. Eva Strang oversaw the project in her six-grade science classes. Since Ms. Strang’s retirement, Ms. Anne Baltzer has used the project to teach coldwater conservation. With the Stonycreek River adjacent school grounds, numerous “hands-on” activities take place throughout the school year, including regular trips for water to maintain the aquarium. This project has also been supported by the Jenner Rod & Gun Club, which has provided additional fish food, waders, and funds for a new chiller.
In 2008, the Somerset Conservation District sponsored and coordinated a project funded by MLTU to improve the access area to the Stonycreek River, located on school property, where the students sample for aquatic insects, gather water for their fish tanks, and release their trout.
Berlin-Brothersvalley High School
Upon the success of the program at North Star, MLTU and the Stream Team secured another grant for 2007-2008 from the PA Council of Trout Unlimited to start TIC in Mr. Dan Miller’s agricultural sciences classes at Berlin. The New Baltimore Sportsmen’s Club provided the required matching funds for the grant. Mr. Miller is expanding the school’s fish program and received funds to purchase a huge 500-gallon tub to prevent overcrowding in the smaller aquarium. It’s become tradition that after release of trout into the Stonycreek River at the Baltzer Bridge, students then go fishing at Laurel Hill State Park courtesy a PA Fish and Boat Commission Family Fishing Program.
Forest Hills Middle High School
As Mr. Brian Madison, a MLTU member, has engaged his students in fly-tying for years, implementing TIC at Forest Hills Middle School was a natural fit. During the 2008-2009 school year, he started to incorporate TIC into his curriculum, easily using TIC to demonstrate important environmental, chemical, and biological functions. The Beaverdale Sportsmen’s Club and Laurel Run Rod & Gun Club provided the matching funds for this project. In 2014, the TIC project moved from the High School to the Middle School and is now under the direction of Mr. Mike Pasierb. Students release their trout into Laurel Run and conduct a stream study at the same time.
Shade-Central City High School
Shade decided it wished to pursue TIC in Ms. Marjorie Zubek’s science classes after grant applications to the PA Council of Trout Unlimited were due; therefore, Ms. Kathy Ross, an AmeriCorps member with the Dark Shade Brownfield Project and Shade Creek Watershed Association solicited funds to implement this project in the 2008-2009 school year. The Central City and Shade Sportsmen’s Clubs, Shade Creek Watershed Association, and Shade-Central City School District provided the funds to purchase all the necessary equipment and supplies. In the spring, students release their trout into Laurel Run, adjacent the Reitz #1 AMD treatment system. They then participate in Outdoor Discovery workshops organized by the Stream Team and finish the day fishing at the Central City Sportsmen’s Club pond.
Conemaugh Township Area Middle School
Ms. Melissa Wilson took over the Trout in the Classroom program at Conemaugh Township Middle School from Mr. Jason Hazlett and MLTU member and teacher, Mr. Michael Vranich, who started TIC at CT during the 2009-2010 school year. Ms. Wilson’s 6th grade class is caring for the trout. Surviving trout are released into the Bens Creek at Ferndale Sportsmen's Club. Students then participate in a day of outdoor activities. MLTU president, Randy Buchanan, demonstrates fly casting and Stream Team volunteers and partners lead lessons on wetlands, invasive and native plants, macroinvertebrates, the chemistry of AMD and iron oxide recovery, with students making tye-dyed bandanas with the iron oxide pigment. A grant from PATU helped fund TIC at CT, while the Hollsopple VFW Post 8861 and an anonymous sportsmen’s club provided the required matching funds. The Johnstown Sportsmen’s Club contributed towards educational programs related to TIC at CT. The Conemaugh Township Rotary generously supported TIC in the 2017-2018 school year.
Penn Cambria Middle School
Mr. Ben Watt oversees a TIC project for 6th graders at Penn Cambria Middle School and has since 2009. Mr. Justin Wheeler led TIC for 7th graders at the school from 2010-2015. Both received funds from PATU and the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association to start TIC years ago. Students release their trout into Clearfield Creek.
Divine Mercy Catholic Academy
Ms. Marian Cyburt is managing TIC at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Johnstown for 5th and 6th graders. The school, Johnstown Sportsmen’s Association, Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, and MLTU provided funds to implement TIC here, beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. Students release trout into the Bens Creek at Ferndale Sportsmen's Club and then rotate between several outdoor workshops, similar to Conemaugh Township.
Cambria Heights Middle School
Mr. Jarrod Lewis, a learning support teacher, and Mr. Nate Wharton, a science teacher, implemented TIC for 6th graders during the 2011-2012 school year. The Rembrandt Club, MLTU, GenOn Energy, and Conemaugh Valley Conservancy provided the funds for this project. Students release trout into Chest Creek and then rotate between six Outdoor Discovery Workshops led by partnering organizations. Due to an earlier grade level starting TIC, Mr. Wharton stopped TIC in 2016.
Bishop McCort High School
With the help of some experienced students from Divine Mercy Catholic Academy who go on to high school at Bishop McCort, Mr. Stephen Cotchen and Mr. Jesse Cooper oversee TIC for ninth graders. Students release trout in the headwaters of Bens Creek and then enjoy a series of Outdoor Discovery Workshops at the Ferndale Sportsmen's Club. The school secured donations as match for a start-up grant it received from PATU in 2012 for TIC.
Blacklick Valley Jr./Sr. High School
Blacklick Valley started a TIC project in 2015 under the direction of Mr. Shade Rudnik and Mr. Jon Farabaugh. This nicely compliments their curriculum and fly-tying club! Students release their trout into Stewart Run in State Gamelands 79 and then participate in a series of Outdoor Discovery Workshops led by MLTU, the Stream Team, and its partners.
In 2009, the Stream Team received a donation from the Stonycreek Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP) and a grant from Recreational Equipment Incorporation (REI) to support its work with all area TIC projects, for which we were grateful. In 2011, the Stream Team received a grant from GenOn Energy that allowed for the purchase of replacement materials for several of the schools.
For more information on TIC:
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