“The students are heavily involved in the process,” said Barker. “As the trout get older, it’s get harder. The water needs to be changed more often and treated for the nitrates to get any ammonia out and nutrients in.”
Caring for the creatures from egg to release has been an eye-opener for 14-year-old Jasmine Mitchell.
“At first, I was intrigued by the idea of having a class pet,” she said. “But they’re really a science project. We watched them grow really fast and learned about the food cycle and the food chain. It’s cool that the fish have really connected to what we learn in class and to real life.”
The project’s conservation aspect ties into the mission of Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring north Georgia’s cold-water streams where trout live.
“We rely on this program to sustain the population,” said Jim Byrd, a Roswell resident who coordinates the Trout in the Classroom program for the local chapter that has about 800 avid fly fishing members. “The state stocks a lot of the streams, but if we didn’t assist that effort, the trout would be fished out very quickly.”
Byrd works with Cristo Rey and three other area schools to raise the trout, but finding partners can be problematic. “One of the issues is it’s a little tough to get funding,” he said. “It takes about $1,500 to get a tank, filter, chiller and supplies. And even though about $1,000 is put up by Trout Unlimited, we ask the school to contribute $500, and that can be a barrier for some schools.”
Students participating in the program are excited about it, Byrd said. “They really enjoy that it’s hands-on. They learn about chemistry by testing the water and the balance of ammonia and sulfites. They learn about conservation and the cycle of life. And at Cristo Rey, a city school, I don’t think there are many kids who spend much time in the woods, so we’re teaching the next generation to respect the environment. And maybe a few will become fly fishers when they grow up.”
Information about Cristo Rey: cristoreyatlanta.org. Details about Trout Unlimited: tu.org.