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No Trout Left Behind

Rainbow trout that Escondido students have raised in their classroom through a hands-on program supported by the Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) were released this month—though not all were released according to plan.

Trout in the Classroom is an interdisciplinary program that teaches students about delicate aquatic environments through raising fish. The Conservancy installs aquariums in participating classrooms and students are responsible for rearing the trout through the early stages of their life cycle until the fish become fry (juveniles). As students care for the trout and learn about water quality, they come to understand the environmental issues confronting California’s waterways—and the role humans can play in harming or restoring these sensitive ecosystems.

According to Jim Blanchard, a 3rd grade teacher at Conway Elementary who has participated in the program with the Conservancy since 2016: “Trout in the Classroom is simply the finest educational program around. It’s relevant to our students as we facilitate their development as stewards of the Escondido Creek watershed. The level of motivation and interest the students demonstrate is incredible as they see the real world and demonstrate high quality work through becoming experts in all stages of the trout life cycle.”

In March and April, after more than two months of science experiments, art projects, and writing assignments all centered around trout, students were scheduled to take a field trip to a locally-approved reservoir to release their fish. Some schools with release dates scheduled for early March got lucky. Glen View Elementary 3rd graders released their trout in Lake Miramar, and received some media coverage, including NBC 7 and Fox 5. Likewise, Rincon Middle School 8th graders had the opportunity to release their trout in Lake Cuyamaca and visit a trout hatchery there. Then…plans quickly changed.

Amidst school closures, the Conservancy worked with school faculty to make sure no trout was left behind and all remaining fish were freed. Local teachers and Conservancy staff helped gather the remaining fish and released them at Lake Miramar. Though they were released without the students there to give them a proper send-off, we at the Conservancy wish them a high rate of biological success and a happy life!

The program is sanctioned by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and funded through SDG&E’s Environmental Champions grant, with additional funding from the Rotary Club of Escondido. Although the program got cut short this year, we look forward to students getting the full experience next school year.