The Oak Brook TU Chapter has successfully completed its 11th year of “Trout in the Classroom” (TIC) with over 700 student participants. TIC is a program that allows participating schools to raise trout from eggs to juvenile trout in a classroom from an aquarium tank and release them in a northern Illinois trout stream or Lake Michigan. This year OBTU supported 12 school programs. Students from these schools released their trout during the week of May 6.
The program helps students learn the complexities and fragility of coldwater stream ecosystems, and hopefully to develop a conservation ethic through the TIC program. TIC is a nationwide but highly localized program where teachers and their students raise trout from eggs to fingerlings over the course of one school year. They learn to care for their fish and trout habitat, and the program culminates with a field trip where the students release their trout in a northern Illinois trout stream, or in Lake Michigan.
These release field trips are the culmination of a year’s activity for these students, as they visit the trout stream, test the water quality for comparison to their school tank, and seine and survey for aquatic nymphs and organisms that are part of the trout’s ecosystem. And of course, they release their trout fingerlings.
This program could not have been successfully completed without the support of OBTU volunteers. In fact, this year between the April entomology presentations at TIC schools and the release week, 25 OBTU volunteers worked a total of 400 volunteer hours.
For the 2019-2020 school year, we will see the return of Burroughs School in Chicago, as well as two new schools–Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park (recipients of Oak Brook TU’s annual TIC grant) and Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge (recipients of the Illinois Council TU TIC grant).
“This is a healthy and growing program,” said Marvin Strauch, OBTU Youth Education Chair. “Of course, the day to day work of TIC is conducted by the individual teachers and students, who without exception, take serious ownership of their troutlings. These young people are very concerned for the health of their fish, and excited to release them in their natural home.”
The program could not continue without the participation of OBTU volunteers and financial support of the chapter’s fundraising efforts. These volunteers help the schools set up the 55-gallon aquariums, and prepare the water for the arrival of the trout eggs. They deliver the eggs in November and visit the schools periodically during the school year to ensure that the trout remain healthy. The program kicks into high gear in mid-April when OBTU volunteers, along with retired entomologist Dean Hansen, present a very hands-on entomology program which is called our “Wet Bugs” program. Twenty-three OBTU volunteers brought this program to more than 450 students over six school days. Three weeks later, the program culminated in the release field trips. Ten school groups released their brown trout in a northern Illinois trout stream. The other schools conducted releases of rainbow trout in Lake Michigan. The stream releases were assisted by 21 OBTU volunteers, who helped students seine for stream insects to learn what their trout will feed on, conduct water quality tests to compare the stream conditions to their aquarium results, and understand what makes a healthy trout stream. And of course, to release their trout.
Special thanks go to the following OBTU volunteers: Miguel and Mirella Alvarez, Ted Bernhard, Willie Beshire, Steve Carlson, Dave Carlson, Art Cottrell, Lisa Gilmore, Fred Hodge, Ken Krueger, Dan LaFave, Mike Lesiak, Dave Lunardini, Dale MacDonald, Phil McCluskey, Ed Michael, Jim Schmiedeskamp, John Snyder, Bill Thoms, Walter Wahlfeldt, Tom Wilhelm, Phil Young, Stan Zarnowiecki, Frank Zbylski.