Trout in Estes Park Classrooms


Though not on the scale of the old Fish Hatchery, trout are again being raised in Estes Park, Colorado.


On October 23rd, four classes of now fourth graders, along with their third grade teachers, released six 4-5” juvenile rainbow trout into the pond at Trout Haven. We had come full circle. (A sad side note is that 15 trout were raised to be released. Due to careless feeding of bait into the tank by people fishing at Trout Haven, nine trout died two of days prior to the scheduled release.) It is important for our students to know what an outstanding job they did in our first ever attempt at Trout in the Classroom (TIC). They had a 1.5% success rate—we teach that only about 1% survives in nature.


The third grade teachers—Brooke Fortini, Caitlin Rugaber, Lauren Schafer, and Erin Wharton—who bravely embraced Trout in the Classroom this past year are up to the task again. We are off and running (or should I say swimming) with four 55 gallon tanks this year—one in each classroom. We received and planted approximately 1,500 eyed rainbow trout eggs on October 24th. They started hatching on November 18th!


Again this year, students will learn the life cycle of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss—yes they learn how to pronounce it), their anatomy by dissection (any volunteers to help?), the environment and their preferred habitat. The students do all of the water testing and environment control in the tanks in the classrooms in addition to feeding the young trout as they grow. Mrs. Fortini hopes they will be able to do “the same habitat (field) trip as last year along Fish Creek”. She states, “Our ultimate goal is to release them (the trout!) into the wild in the spring.”


All of the TIC learning is accomplished through hands-on activities, technology extensions, and various projects. All of the teachers are using TIC to integrate trout into other subjects including writing, reading, and math, etc. Ms. Schafer says, this teaching approach “will eventually lead to kids creating their own project where they will advocate for an animal based off what they learned about trout!”


This is such an opportunity for our third graders who are one of the youngest TIC groups in the United States. These programs usually take place in middle or high schools. They are so excited and having fun, I’m not sure they even realize they are learning. The opportunity to invest our young people in the future of our environment it priceless!


A big thank you to Joe Bottoms for getting us started in TIC, Chris Kennedy for sourcing eggs and testing, The Estes Valley Watershed Coalition for assisting with environmental education and field trips, and so many other volunteers. A special thanks to all of the individuals and organizations that donated funds to make this program a reality. We could not do it without you!


Judy Heider

Member Estes Park Alpine Anglers, Life Member Trout Unlimited