For Teachers

Page Contents:
I.    5 Lesson Plans (corresponding to our typical 5 class-visits)
II.  Suggestions for Class Activities related to these 5 visits and periods of trout development.

Google Docs:  Downloable presentations and materials are available via google docs.  Contact if you do not have access.

Instructor Calendar (check here, then Email your preferred dates for class visits) 

I. Core Lesson Plans (here is a summary of overall sequence)

Introduction - Getting Started (October-November)
     With aquariums set up, water testing, and egg deliveries, the learning curve for everyone is pretty steep during the fall.  Your TIC mentor will visit with an introductory presentation, and will want to get to  know your class, but the focus at this point in the year is quite class-specific.  Some activities that we recommend include:
  • Predict the survival rate for your trout. Out of 100 eggs, how many are likely to survive until fingerlings are released in the spring? Take a classroom poll- have students choose from 0-25,26-50,51-75 or more than 75 survivors. Submit your results to the project coordinator for inclusion in our all-school poll!
  • Draw an adult trout!   Have students draw their idea of an adult trout.  Have a class discussion of similarities between student drawings, focusing on characteristics that the students suggest- body shape/size, number of fins, markings, etc.  Can the class work together to create reasonable expectations of what a trout looks like?  Keep drawings for comparison later on, and we will bring a yearling trout!
  • Leaf-Pack Experiment!  We will focus on stream ecology and invertebrates as we prepare for trout releases in the spring, but as the leaves are falling, this is a great time to get started.  The Leaf-Pack Network makes it easy to design experiments, collect your own stream-insect samples and compare data with classes all over the world.  Tree identification, dichotomous keys, functional groups in ecology, scientific method.  See the Project Manual!  
  • OR read "Trout Are Made From Trees" by A. P. Sayre.   A great book for younger kids!

Trout Coloration - (After "swim-up" in December)
     The core of this presentation includes a slideshow, and a nature-illustration activity designed to encourage students to think critically about the appearance of their trout as adaptations for survival.  Students will have an opportunity to present a trout they have "discovered" and to discuss the markings and adaptations that make their fish unique.  For advanced classes, we can investigate the mechanisms that make color-change possible at the cellular level.  Some good starting research sites are:

The Great Daphnia Experiment!  (January - early Feb.)
     During this experiment, students will isolate trout fry and provide them with a new, live food- a zooplankton called daphnia!  Will the trout recognize daphnia as food?  Why/Why Not?  What will happen?  This experiment is adaptable to all grade levels, and includes a variety of add-on components for more advanced students.  (By the way, the daphnia have a strong "cute-factor", kids will become attached to them!)  Contact Bill and/or your class mentor to set up a presentation date:
Video from Groton 7th grade Feeding Experiment -, 2008

Stream Insects and Health (March/April)
We will focus on the aquatic insects that are a key element of stream foodwebs. We will review the life-cycles and adaptive characteristics of these insects, and then have the students use dichotomous keys to identify insect types (to the order) using live specimens. This lesson introduces the idea that we can learn, or infer, much about the function of a system (stream foodweb) by making scientific observations of individual components. 
Using the Izaak Walton League "Benthic MacroInvertebrate Index", we will practice scoring a stream's health, like a test, using insects.  Classes will practice this test, which we will do for real before releasing our fish. Finally, we will feed a few insect larvae to the trout- always a great time!
  • Lesson plan is HERE (on the way...)
  • Dichotomous Key is HERE.
Stream Release Field Trips (May/June)

Field trips to various locations near schools.....  it is never too early to begin planning your spring trout release!  We highly encourage you to shoot for a May date.   Items to consider:
  • will the stream provide good habitat?
  • is the stream accessible and safe?
  • is it on public property, or in a location that students might be able to return to on their own?

II. Optional Additional Programs

Growth Chart - Avg, Min & Max.
GROWTH MEASUREMENT & CHARTING - Your students can practice measurement techniques and interpretation of scientific data, as they handle live trout! 

The picture below shows one specimen trout, ready for measurement in a petri dish placed on graph paper.  Students can work in small teams to collect and measure a number of trout on any given day, resulting in average, mean, mode, minimum and maximum measurements which can be charted (right).  We'll be glad to visit your class and introduce the project, or we can share the lesson plan and answer your questions.

AQUAPONICS - A number of classes will add floating aquaponics kits to their aquariums, as we
approach spring.  But, this is dependent on the availability of sunlight in your classroom! The aquaponics activity, where we grow plants from seed using the nutrient-rich tank water, fits very well with 4th grade "Structures of Life" FOSS-kit activities.

STREAM RELEASE PREP - Depending on your plans for spring stream releases (May and June), we can be available to help your students prepare and get the most out of their experience.

HISTORY CONNECTION - (4th Grade Link to new York State History!)
The fishfood we feed our trout is based on a fish called "menhaden"- a critical base fish in Atlantic estuaries, and the original fish-fertilizer for the native American "Three Sisters".  the name "Menhaden" is linked to a native American word for fertilizer!  These fish are also known as "alewives" and were introduced to Cayuga Lake in the 1800s as a food source for BROWN TROUT and salmon!  Learn more about the role of these fish in American history at
On-Line Activities & Lesson Plans (see Online Resources page for complete list of videos, etc.)