The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources made some special deliveries to classrooms across Northern Utah Tuesday.
Classes at eight schools in Weber and Davis counties each received a delivery of about 150 tiny orange rainbow trout eggs, which the students will grow into fish and release into Northern Utah waterways in May.
The deliveries were for a program called Trout in the Classroom, sponsored by the Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit with the mission to “bring people who care about cold water fisheries together to protect, reconnect and restore the places they love to fish.”
“(The Trout in the Classroom program) connects right into educating the public about the value of cold water fish ... connecting kids to nature for some kids that don’t have a chance to get out to nature, basically bringing nature to the kids,” said Brett Prettyman, Intermountain communications director for Trout Unlimited.
“... In the process of learning about what it takes to raise trout and the environment that is required — the cold water that it takes to successfully raise the fish — they learn how delicate nature is,” Prettyman continued.
As a result of this delicate balance in nature, sometimes a class will lose their entire tank of fish.
“There’s an issue like the power goes out on a holiday weekend, and the water gets too warm, and the entire tank is lost,” Prettyman said. “... That’s a lesson, too. The kids learn that if something goes wrong in nature, something goes wrong in the classroom, and it impacts them.”
Cold water fish are native to North America, Prettyman said, and one type — Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat trout — is particularly important to Utah’s history because it kept the pioneers alive when they first arrived in Utah, too late in the year to plant any crops.
“They should be protected and cherished,” Prettyman said, and cutthroat trout are especially important considering that petitions have been made to classify some cutthroat subspecies as endangered.
All of the fish grown in classrooms, though, are rainbow trout because they’re easier to grow in an aquarium, Prettyman said, and the limited number of cutthroat eggs are carefully handled by DWR.
“They’re trying to make sure that there’s enough (cutthroat trout eggs) to get them put ... in (the species’) native range across the state,” Prettyman said.
In Davis County, Centerville, Whitesides, Syracuse and Wasatch elementary schools in Davis School District received deliveries of trout eggs.
In Weber County, Roosevelt Elementary in Weber School District and George Washington High School in Ogden School District both received deliveries, as did two area charter schools: Ogden Preparatory Academy and DaVinci Academy.
The Trout in the Classroom program is growing, Prettyman said, with 57 Trout Unlimited tanks in classrooms across Utah this year.
While the program is designed for fourth grade, classes at all ages have participated, from preschool through high school, Prettyman said.
Trout Unlimited provides the tank and volunteer assistance to all classrooms participating in the project, but the endeavor is expensive — each 55-gallon tank costs the organization $1200 to provide — so it’s not always able to fund all the new classes who want to join each year, and there is a waiting list.
Some teachers and classes are so eager to join that the school will fund the project or they’ll raise their own funds, Prettyman said.
Others have gotten grants through the Utah STEM Action Center, created by the Utah State Legislature in 2013.
The program is in the early stages of expanding in a more formal way to link with the curriculum and standards of other grades.
“Here in Utah, we’re actually working with some other non-profit, youth conservation-minded groups that might be helping us design a curriculum for older students ... to try to develop a Utah-specific curriculum for all the grades,” Prettyman said.