Students in St. Jerome School are learning about conservation, clean water and caring for wildlife … two fins at a time. Under the guidance of seventh-grade teacher Joan Tagliaferro, the West Long Branch students are raising rainbow trout from the egg stage to release as mature adults through the “Trout in the Classroom” program.
Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is a science-based program that teaches children about the importance of coldwater conservation through a hands-on approach to learning, according to its website. Through the process of raising trout from eggs to fingerlings, the size they are at release time, students learn about the importance of clean, cold water, not only for the trout they are raising, but also for the other organisms, including people. The cross-curricular program, which encompasses many subject areas, is geared for students from kindergarten through college and currently reaches more than 40,000 students per year in urban, suburban and rural areas.
In New Jersey, TIC is a cooperative effort of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the New Jersey State Council of Trout Unlimited, along with its member chapters who sponsor fish tanks and equipment in local schools.
Tagliaferro had participated in the TIC program as a student in her New York City grammar school, and was eager to introduce it to the St. Jerome School curriculum. She applied for a grant from the Freehold Soil Conservation District (part of the New Jersey Natural Resources Program) which provided equipment such as a 30-gallon tank, filters, chillers and aerators, valued at $1,000.
Now in its seventh year in St. Jerome, the project requires a great deal of responsibility on the part of the students, Tagliaferro noted.
“Students are involved in all stages of development and maintenance of the tank throughout the year,” she noted. “They feed the fish, do water testing, clean the tank and the supplies. They really enjoy it.”
In past years, the students raised brook trout, the state fish of New Jersey. An infectious bacterium which affected the species prompted them to switch to raising rainbow trout. About 10 percent of the eggs mature into adulthood each year.
“Last year, we received 350 eggs of rainbow trout and in May were able to release 65 fish into the wild in Brice Park, Wall Township,” Tagliaferro recalled. “I loaded the fish into an aerator ... they had to be kept in water with temperatures in the 50s.”
Despite the challenges, Tagliaferro and her students relish the thought of contributing to the fish population and promoting clean water. “It’s hands-on science,” she said.