Trout in the Classroom

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Trout in the Classroom

VINS is delighted to partner with the State Council of Vermont Trout Unlimited to support the Trout in the Classroom program in schools across the state.  Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is an environmental education program in which students raise brook trout from eggs before releasing them in a state-approved stream.

Trout in the Classroom began approximately 30 years ago, and each year thousands of classrooms across the country host active TIC projects. These programs typically result from unique local collaborations among teachers, volunteers, outdoor-oriented organizations, and government agencies. Trout Unlimited, which oversees TIC in Vermont, is the principal sponsor for 30% of the country’s TIC programs.

Grade Levels

The optimal grade level is grade 3 - 6. TIC works best when it is taught “across the curriculum,” that is, when teachers use TIC to foster learning in virtually all subject areas, certainly in science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, and fine art.  VINS is well positioned to support teachers in implementing TIC and incorporating it into existing curriculum.

Teachers tailor the program to fit their curricular needs. While TIC requires a focus on science, the program has marvelous interdisciplinary applications in numerous other subjects, including mathematics, social studies, language arts, technology, and fine arts. Thus, TIC can be as narrowly focused or as broadly applied as the teacher and their students want to make it.

With respect to science study, the essential aspects of the program are learning about early trout development, monitoring tank water chemistry, and maintaining water quality. But many programs also provide students opportunities to:

  • learn about trout anatomy, habitat, life cycle, and food
  • study streams and how they work
  • collect and classify stream insects
  • analyze stream water quality.

Through such experiences, students grow to understand ecosystems, develop an appreciation of water resources, and begin to acquire a conservation ethic.

  1. A classroom tank (55-gallon is recommended), chiller, filter, aerator, water test kits, and bacterial additives (together these cost approximately $1,200)
  2. One or more committed teachers (given the expense and the learning that it takes to initiate the program, we don’t encourage schools to apply for TIC unless they intend to offer the program repeatedly)
  3. A supportive principal, including, after the first year, willing to allocate an annual supplies budget of approximately $100
  4. LEARNING! New teachers must attend a free daylong training workshop on an early November Saturday. Teachers are also expected to read/study a 90-page TIC Manual. This Web site and its frequent blog posts are intended to be further sources of support. As challenges arise–and they will!–teachers will need to do additional research, consult with others, and engage in problem-solving with colleagues and volunteers.

The Students' Role

Ideally, TIC students have a large role in—indeed, take responsibility for—tank maintenance. Experience has shown that, once trained, students as young as third graders can accurately, reliably, and conscientiously perform all water chemistry tests as well as necessary water changes. Adult supervision is, of course, desirable.

Trout Unlimited's Role

Nationally, Trout Unlimited provides extensive technical and curricular resources through the TIC Web site ( and an invaluable listserve for state coordinators. In Vermont, members of TU’s five chapters serve as volunteers to their respective region’s TIC programs.  As the lead facilitator for TIC in Vermont, VINS organizes a workshop each fall for teachers and volunteers and is also available for ongoing support and consultation.

The Role of Volunteers

​Although some teachers prefer to “go it alone,” all programs, especially new programs, are strongly encouraged to recruit one or more community volunteers to assist with the program. These individuals can be parents, grandparents, retired educators, local sports enthusiasts, and others. While it is beneficial when volunteers are knowledgeable about trout and/or science, such knowledge is certainly not necessary.

Typically volunteers help with basic tank maintenance, participate in field trips, and collaborate with teachers in addressing water chemistry challenges. They are often willing to teach lessons on stream insects and topics such as trout anatomy, habitat, and life cycle. Some even augment the standard TIC program with fly-casting instruction or fly tying classes.

The Role of VT Fish & Wildlife

VT Fish & Wildlife provides the trout eggs, offers hatchery tours, helps to determine appropriate stocking/release locations for the fish, and provides field presentations by Fish Biologists and Habitat Biologists.

Project Timeline

  • Spring before the year of initiation, investigate what’s involved, decide whether you want to do the program, look into possible funding sources, begin curriculum planning
  • If at all possible, funds should also be secured by the end of September
  • October 1, order equipment and supplies
  • Early November, TIC workshop
  • Early January, eggs are delivered
  • Early January, get eggs
  • From mid-May to mid-June, Release Day! (usually ....)
  • Mid-June, clean everything and pack it away for next year

Trout in the Classroom Resources

Equipment Set Up Videos

See instructional videos on how to set up a tank and its equipment.

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Project Manual

Access a PDF version of the Trout in the Classroom Manual.

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Filter & Chiller Manuals

Access Manuals for the Filter & Chiller.

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Educational Resources

Access handbooks, water quality and trout health documents, and Common Core & NGSS activities.

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Read the Trout In The Classroom Blog for information about the program.

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Bringing Science Inquiry & Investigation to Life in Your Classroom

Each VINS Science Educator has a Master of Education degree, is a Highly Qualified Teacher, and holds a teaching license in Vermont and New Hampshire.