Weeks of waiting finally came to fruition nearly two weeks ago for Parker Miner and his classmates at Century Elementary School in Bear River City.
For about three weeks, Miner had been coming to the school’s library every day to check on the tiny eggs secured in a small basket in the corner of a large aquarium. Then, one day, he came in and was delighted to see they had hatched and wriggled their way out into their new, temporary home.
Within a few days, the young rainbow trout had already grown to an inch long and were already displaying their namesake colors along their sides.
“My favorite part is watching them grow and then zooming around,” Miner said.
Century Elementary is one of 44 participating Utah schools this year in the Trout in the Classroom project, a collaboration between the state and conservation group Trout Unlimited that gives students from kindergarten through 12th grade a window into the life cycle of one of Utah’s most common fish species.
Librarian Patty Green, the project supervisor at the school, said it’s been an exciting thing for the students.
“They come in every morning off the bus and say ‘hurry, we’ve gotta go see the fish,’” Green said. “It’s been super fun.”
Miner and other fourth-graders at the school help test the water quality and participate in other hands-on learning activities with the fish.
“The kids come up with a lot of questions that I never would have thought of,” Green said.
The eggs that recently hatched at Century Elementary came from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ fish hatchery in Mantua. Toward the end of the school year in May, the fish will be transplanted into Wellsville Pond in Cache Valley, where they will become available for anglers to catch.
Normally the students would go on a field trip to help release the fish, but field trips have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ll go over on the day they release them and video it so the kids can see,” Green said.
The aquarium tank at Century came from North Park Elementary in Tremonton, which had participated in the program for the past three years. When Green learned that the tank at North Park would become available, she jumped at the chance.
Paul Holden, a volunteer with Cache Anglers, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, visits the school periodically to check on the fish.
Holden brought Trout in the Classroom to Northern Utah about 10 years ago after Trout Unlimited Utah President Bob Diblee established the program in Salt Lake City. He said there are nine schools in Cache County and two in Box Elder County participating this year (the other being Promontory School of Expeditionary Learning in Perry).
“We don’t have as many this year because of COVID, some teachers decided not to do it,” Holden said.
He said the program costs about $2,000 per school, and Cache Anglers has been able to provide the funds for all of the Northern Utah schools this year through private donations.
“This year we had a surplus of volunteers,” he said. “We will buy a setup for any school as long as we have a volunteer to work with them.”
All of Utah’s Trout in the Classroom projects feature rainbow trout because the DWR has a surplus of rainbow eggs. Each tank has to be permitted, and the trout are only transplanted into community ponds from which they can’t escape in order to eliminate the potential for the spread of whirling disease or other communicable aquatic illnesses.
“It would be nice to do native cutthroat, but they don’t have a lot of those,” Holden said.
He said Trout in the Classroom has been a valuable resource in getting kids thinking about wildlife and the life cycle of trout.
“It’s really all for the kids, to give them something sort of outside to think about while they’re in school,” he said. “It’s a great program, and a good collaboration.”