Trout = Trees? Trout in the Classroom thinks so

trout in the classroom teaching

By Ellen Morris

Education is a powerful tool and is one of the best ways to spread environmental awareness. At CCSE, our Trout in the Classroom program focuses on educating future generations about environmental issues by highlighting one iconic species: Steelhead trout.

Trout in the Classroom brings real life trout into schools, allowing students to raise rainbow trout from eggs to fry (young fish). As students learn about this species, they’re able to watch their own trout grow alongside them. The program delivers four in-class sessions and one field trip, where students are able to release their young trout into local freshwater bodies, to live the rest of their lives in the wild. 

This year, we delivered Trout in the Classroom to 27 different classes spanning across Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The program reached students as young as preschool all the way through high school, and utilized the trout as a tool to break down more complicated environmental topics. In addition to learning about trout, students also learned about watersheds, food webs, and environmental inventions. 

This year, in our younger classes, we read a book entitled Trout are Made of Trees. Each time I introduced the story, I was met with a chorus of confused “Whats, huhs, and no-they’re-nots.” After allowing the students to talk with their friends about this interesting idea, we came together again as a class to start our story. The book taught us about food webs; explaining that leaves fall in creeks and streams, are eaten by water bugs, which are then eaten by trout. Therefore, trout are made of trees. It also explains that bears and people – animals that eat trout – are also made of trees. The story helped emphasize that trout aren’t only connected to the things they eat; they’re also connected to many other species. After reading the story, students understood that although trout aren’t actually made of trees; they are interconnected to them. To further drive the idea home, students made their own trout art out of leaves. 

By teaching students about these environmental connections early on, we’re making environmental consciousness a part of their lives. We want students to automatically default to the sustainable option, no longer making sustainability a choice, but a healthy, positive lifestyle. And if they ever need a gentle reminder to stick to the sustainable path, they can recall our “Trout are Made of Trees” lesson for a nudge in the right direction.