Thomas Jefferson once said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” and while that was likely meant as a reference to having people understand issues that affect their democracy, it holds equally true for trout conservation and education. Those of us who’ve worked with trout understand how important it is to reach out to people of all ages to communicate the importance of trout, trout habitat, and coldwater conservation. Formal programs like “Trout in the Classroom” teach young students the importance of clean water and what lives there, and why trout and healthy streams are important. Local efforts throughout the world abound and can be explored wherever trout are found.
A flagship program of Trout Unlimited's Youth Education efforts, Trout (or Salmon) in the Classroom (TIC or SIC) offers students of all ages a chance to raise salmonids in a classroom setting and then release them into a nearby stream or river. Any teacher in any classroom can make TIC or SIC relevant to his or her classroom curriculum. In kindergarten, the focus can be on caring, growth, and understanding the life cycles and the seasons. A high school program might explore water chemistry, the nitrogen cycle, natural resource management, and watershed geology and ecology. For this reason, TU does not provide one standard curriculum—instead it offers an ever-growing online lesson plan library arranged by subject, as well as a participant-driven listserv. Teachers across the country share their tried-and-true activity ideas.
Because TIC brings nature into the classroom, the program allows students to develop a personal bond and sense of the conservation ethic that are at the core of TU's mission. In TIC and SIC, caring for and about the fish fosters a conservation ethic in the students, and the act of walking to a stream bank and directly releasing the fingerlings into the water makes a concrete connection between caring for the fish and caring for the water.
TU staff and volunteers in 35 states are involved in more than 1,000 TIC and SIC projects, which is a large fraction of the 4,000+ TIC and SIC projects in the United States.
At the same time, there are exciting programs being planned and implemented across the globe that involve people of all ages. For example, Spain’s Rios Con Vida conducts workshops and educational activities for people of all ages. Great Britain’s Wild Trout Trust provides a unique educational opportunity called “Mayfly in the Classroom” that is designed to educate teachers and young students on the value of trout streams and clean water. This program is linked to the national standards program for education thereby serving two purposes. These are just a few examples of curricula that exist worldwide using trout as an educational opportunity.
One unique effort that was started by Rene Beaumont from Continental Trout in Europe is the “Masterclass”, a week-long workshop that brings together young adults from 20 countries to become ambassadors for trout and trout conservation. This event is unique in that students from all over the world will have the chance to interact with some of the foremost International experts on trout and trout ecology to learn about the value of trout and become ambassadors for trout in their various countries. This unique event will be hosted in Slovenia in 2014 and then associated with The World of Trout in 2015.