Students get schooled by fish

Klamath Basin School District's 'Trout in the Classroom' program educates local students about healthy fish habitat, endangered species and water quality

The tiny black eye spots of these redband trout eggs appear to stare back at observers. These spring trout eggs in the eyed-stage were delivered to a dozen Klamath County, Oregon public, private and after-school classrooms for a two-month project called Trout in the Classroom. Credit: Marcia Schlottman/Klamath Country School District

The tiny black eye spots of these redband trout eggs appear to stare back at observers. These spring trout eggs in the eyed-stage were delivered to a dozen Klamath County, Oregon public, private and after-school classrooms for a two-month project called Trout in the Classroom. Credit: Marcia Schlottman/Klamath Country School District


By Susan Sawyer
June 14, 2019

A group of students peered through the cold glass of the small aquarium at 100 pea-sized fish eggs rolling gently on the bottom of the tank. The unblinking black eyes of the orange orbs inside appeared to stare back.

Leland Banish, 3, son of Service fish biologist Nolan Banish helps deliver eyed trout eggs to a local Klamath Falls school for their Trout in the Classroom project. Credit: Akimi King/USFWS

Leland Banish, 3, son of Service fish biologist Nolan Banish helps deliver eyed trout eggs to a local Klamath Falls school for their Trout in the Classroom project. Credit: Akimi King/USFWS

The eggs were delivered as part of the popular program “Fish Eggs to Fry in the Classroom,” offered to public, private and after-school classes in Klamath County for more than 10 years, according to Akimi King, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

The program helps promote the state of Oregon’s hatchery goal of stocking catchable trout while educating local students about healthy fish habitat, endangered species and water quality.

This year, Kara Contreras’ seventh grade elective ecology class at Brixner Jr. High School was one of a dozen schools receiving Redband trout eggs, a species native to the Klamath Basin.

Contreras explained to the students it was their responsibility to care for the eggs.

“This is a science experiment,” Contreras told the class, gathered around the aquarium in the school shop. “Sometimes things may not go the way we want but we’re going to do everything we can to keep these little fish healthy and happy.”

For about two months, students are responsible for maintaining water quality and temperature for the eggs as they hatch and develop into several life stages known as fry.

Daily tasks include recording observations, monitoring fish health and making calculations.

“After the eggs hatch, the attached yolk sac provides all the nutrition the fry need for about two weeks. This is the ‘sac-fry’ stage,” said King. “When the yolk sac is absorbed, it’s called the ‘button up’ stage. The fry are either returned to the hatchery to be fed, or kept in the class a little longer so students can learn how to calculate the amount of food the fry need each day without overfeeding.”

Students are

Students are "all in" for the Trout in the Classroom project, taking on the responsibility of daily monitoring, calculations and recording all observations of the small fish. Teachers attend workshops prior to receiving the trout eggs, where they learn to incorporate the project into math, science, history and language arts lessons. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS

A chiller, aquarium and the Trout in the Classroom curriculum are provided through a partnership between the Service, the Oregon Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program and the Klamath Country Flycasters, a local volunteer group promoting improved fish habitat and recreational fishing opportunities.

Pre-schoolers from Juncos & Junipers Preschool  in Klamath Falls release their redband trout fry in a pond at the Running Y Ranch Resort. Credit: Selena Duffy/Juncos & Junipers Preschool

Pre-schoolers from Juncos & Junipers Preschool  in Klamath Falls release their redband trout fry in a pond at the Running Y Ranch Resort. Credit: Selena Duffy/Juncos & Junipers Preschool

The partner team conducts workshops for teachers to learn about care and monitoring of the eggs and fry and how to incorporate lessons relating the project to science, history, math and even language arts.

The trout eggs are provided by the state-managed Klamath Fish Hatchery, located about 40 minutes north of Klamath Falls.

The eggs are treated at the hatchery to render them sterile, meaning they are not able to reproduce as adult fish. But the trout still grow large enough to provide excellent sport fishing opportunities.

Most of the fry are returned on field trips to the hatchery where students get to feed large adult fish and learn how thousands of trout are raised.

Some classrooms release their fish in private ponds or lakes with no outlet as a precaution against disease transmission with wild fish populations.

“Cold water for trout, riparian trees for shade and good water quality; the lessons students learn about not polluting our waterways are so important,” King said. “Students from pre-school to college really make those connections when they care for these fish every day in the classroom.”

An employee  at Klamath Fish Hatchery shows seventh grade students where their trout eggs came from for their classroom project. Students raised the fish for two months then returned them as small hungry trout fry during a school field trip to the hatchery north of Klamath Falls.  Credit: Klamath County School District

An employee at Klamath Fish Hatchery shows seventh grade students where their trout eggs came from for their classroom project. Students raised the fish for two months then returned them as small hungry trout fry during a school field trip to the hatchery north of Klamath Falls. Credit: Klamath County School District