So What Do I Do With Classroom Animals At The End Of The Year?

Animals in the classroom can be a great teaching tool – but when the year is over, many teachers are faced with the question of what to do with these critters.

Intentional release of animals can be environmentally disruptive:

  • Non-native invasive species may compete aggressively with California natives for survival
  • Even though an animal may be native or endemic to your area, it may harm the existing gene pool if released.
  • Individuals from one area may harbor diseases or pests to which local populations (or other local species) are vulnerable

Do not release classroom animals into nature. While this may seem humane at the time, most animals released into the wild become dinner for something larger in a very short amount of time. You will also be in violation of state law unless you have a permit to do so. Remember, you do have a permit to release the steelhead or rainbow trout you hatch as part of the Trout-in-the-Classroom program.

Here are some suggestions on what to do with your classroom animals:

  • Send the animal home with a student to baby sit for the summer
  • Call local pet stores to see if they will take the animal
  • Call your local animal shelter or humane society
  • Keep the animal at your home for the summer ready for a new batch of students in the fall

It is important that you follow your local, state, and federal guidelines and regulations for handling and caring for live organisms in your classroom—and for dealing with them after your use. We do not advocate releasing live organisms into the outdoors.

Call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at (707) 944-5500 if you have questions.

Here are some additional resources that may be helpful:

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TIC Teachers LOVE When Coaches Come Into The Classroom

Teachers and students love it when coaches make classroom visits. Making a difference to a class of students is easier than you may think. You don’t need to be a credentialed teacher, just be your fly-fishing-loving self, spin some yarns, and answer some simple questions. Oh, and there’s the issue of being able to tolerate a lot of adulation, admiration, and enthusiasm from the students. Here is what three teachers have shared about the value of active sponsors:

“The coaches can really make a difference in the program, so anything we can do as teachers to improve or inspire coach involvement is a good thing! I hadn’t really thought about how diverse and widespread the support groups are – even if they all have fly fishing in common. Very cool!” — Kate

grandpa in school






“I think the best thing for sponsors to know is that they are the connection between what the kids should know and what the teacher delivers – meaning that if a teacher has a question about ANYTHING trout – it was my impression the first ‘go to’ person was our sponsor. If that is the case, the more sponsors make us teachers feel more welcomed and invited to ask these questions, the more interaction there will be between teachers and sponsors. Although they may not feel like experts – sponsors are a link to information that teachers may have no experience with – like why cold water is so important to trout and how a fisherman can feel the temperature difference in the sun vs. the shade and that’s why they sometimes move along a river to get to a better “sweet spot.”

I know sponsors can be intimidated by this, but I think if they knew how valuable their experience and intelligence was, they would be more open to discussing these things with the teachers. I think if we engage the sponsors more at the training with the teachers, that will also help to bridge the gap – is it at all possible we could do some simple team building exercises at the next training? I have some simple ones that can also be used in the classroom … and I could find a way to make them more trout friendly – I already have an idea to build a “trust bridge” that we could call a “trout fish ladder” – – hmmm

Let me know if you want more feedback – I could talk for an hour on the subject of how valuable the sponsors really are/can be :-)” — Amy

“We love when Larry comes in to the classroom to share his enthusiasm for aquatic insects and for fly-fishing.” — Ruth


Thank you coaches…for all the great work you do.

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Sponsors Meet To Discuss/Improve Program

Each year CDFW hosts a meeting of all the sponsors of programs that hatch fish in classrooms around the San Francisco Bay Area. The purpose of the meeting is to share ideas, information, and resources so we can all better support teachers. Here is an overview of the meeting held on May 17th, 2014.

Last year, we came up with these ideas to improve our service to teachers:

  • Have teachers sit at same table with their sponsor during training, so they get to know their supporters and know who to call if/when the going gets tough.
  • Simplify the tank set-up part of training and do it earlier on in the day, as setting up the tank is one of the main anxieties teachers experience. Get it over with so they can relax.
  • Recruit more club members to do classroom visits by increasing their comfort level. Use Ed’s DVD to show club members how rewarding it is. Make a video of interviews with current members to show how much they enjoy the adulation of students and teachers. Point out that if we want to keep fishing in clean, healthy streams, we need to take the time to recruit today’s students as next generation’s environmental stewards. If we don’t, who will?

This year’s suggestions and perspectives regarding recruiting new members to help with tank set-up, egg delivery, and/or classroom programs:

  • Sponsors benefit from doing classroom visits as they can communicate their love of fishing and being outdoors. Club members can field more questions than can teachers. We know about flies and can show ones we’ve made to teach about trout diet. We provide a new voice in the classroom, which draws a lot more attention than listening to the teacher.
  • Sponsors should have a wide choice of activities to do in the classroom, such as art projects (trout hats and dioramas, educational games (Return to the Redd and Race to the Redd), “Wild About Trout” CD, or physical education ecology games (Hooks and Ladders, Defend the Redd and Oh Trout!)
  • Current members who do classroom programs can invite other club members to shadow them to see how appreciated they would be if they did similar classroom visits.

Egg delivery issues:

  • Clubs need to know approximate egg delivery date months in advance to avoid conflicts with vacation schedules.
  • FFF can help bag eggs on morning of delivery to compensate for understaffing of CDFW.
  • CDFW needs help processing 772 permits now that Talia has moved on. Clubs may want to use new techniques like gathering all the permits when delivering eggs and turning them all in together by school.

Hatchery scheduling issues:

  • Hatcheries need to know our TIC schedule so they can attempt to work with it. We need to let them know our desired date of hatching so classrooms receive eggs at least a week beforehand.
  • Teachers need information from the hatchery about the TU and expected time of hatching at the time of delivery.

Tank temperature control issues:

  • Is the problem with chillers or with inadequate insulation? More clubs are going to 2” of insulation, using Reflectix aluminized sheeting from Home Depot in addition to Styrofoam. Another option is Victory Foam, a black neoprene that sticks to the tank, but makes the trout habitat inside look ugly.

Grant issues:

  • It is extremely important to submit the hours you and teachers put into the program, as that determines the matching funds we get to administer the TIC program.
  • The grants determine the tasks we need to accomplish, and the hours are proof that we put in the time to do it.

Program and release day suggestions:

  • Refer teachers to our new Teacher’s Manual. It reviews everything from tank set-up to posters to release day activities, and more. Ed Huff has done amazing graphics to make this an attractive document.
  • Teachers should invite school administrators to the release, as this helps recruit support for the program and can encourage other teachers at the same school to participate.   Also invite CDFW, local press, school district board members, and councilpersons, so the class’s achievements are fully appreciated.

Brainstorming how to improve the program:

  • We need to learn how to talk to kids at different grade levels, how to present information in ways that involves and interests them.
  • We need Universal Early Retirement in the US so we have more people available to help in classrooms. We could, in fact, recruit retired teachers to help clubs with classroom presentations. We may be able to team up with others as well, including service clubs, the NRA, churches, and others that have environmental or outdoor goals that overlap with our own.
  • We could recruit members of the CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program to help in the classroom, especially in Napa and other northern areas.
  • We need to ask club members directly, face-to-face, if they will participate, as asking for a show of hands at a club meeting doesn’t usually get results.
  • Encourage more club members to attend our fall teacher workshops so they see the enthusiasm and develop the desire to help.
  • Offer training workshops for members who want to become TIC coaches. We can only meet the new teacher needs every year if we think “we” instead of just “me.” Make it easy to get involved by recruiting members in baby steps. For example, a member could accompany you to schools on egg delivery day to deliver eggs to other TIC classrooms.
  • Ask students to create a “what I’ve learned by hatching trout and getting to know flyfishers’ video to share with club members.
  • Post your successes in places club members will see them, such as your newsletter, your website, or your favorite trout’s Facebook page.

Other enjoyable activities at our meeting:

Lunch was awesome. Ethan’s snacks (pistachios, coffee cake, drinks, chips) were great as usual. Flasher apologized for failing to bring coffee, and promised it at all future events.

Ken Brunskil talked about the role of FFF and his outreach efforts to the clubs.

Jim Scherer showed his spreadsheet that helps interested teachers control the time of hatching and buttoning up, based on TU calculations. Another helpful date of hatch worksheet is included on page 9 of the new Teacher’s Manual.

Ed Huff showed the CD he uses to help recruit club members to help in the TIC program. He will share copies with all interested clubs. The video on our website is also a good tool to use to give club members an idea of what the teacher and club members do in the classroom and at the release site.

CDFW recognized Redwood Empire Trout Unlimited for their pioneering work in developing a program that hatches fish in the classroom.

Eric ­­­­Larson of CDFW talked about the potential impacts of the drought on fisheries and fish habitat this year. His PowerPoint showed the dramatic changes in rainfall and anadromous fish success from year to year.

Bob Flasher played “Supermarket” with attendees and discovered that he needed to give much clearer instructions the next time. The game showed how we achieve at least twice as much working together as we do alone. This was a subtle hint that we benefit from sharing at these meetings and when more club members lend a hand in the TIC program.

Hope to see you all next year. Happy fishing until then.

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Thoughts on The Value Of Nature Education – David Sobel

“Wet sneakers and muddy clothes are prerequisites for understanding the water cycle”.

wet sneakers






“The heart of childhood, from seven to eleven, is the critical period for bonding with the earth”.

kids in nature2





“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it”.

love the earth






“Exploration of the natural world begins in early childhood, flourishes in middle childhood, and continues in adolescence as a pleasure and a source of strength for social action”.

teens in nature

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Games and Activities For Your Classroom

Here is a fun educational activity on andromous fish along with a classroom activity that helps students get a “fish-nosed-view” of migration. This newsletter was produced by the National Trout Unlimited  program. If you would like to get a classroom set of these materials…contact Rochelle Gandour at

You may also want to check out the new educational activity created by Ed Huff of Mission Peak Fly Anglers and CDFW staff on rainbow trout. It is currently available for download and we are in process of getting it printed for distribution to teachers hatching fish in classrooms all around the SF Bay Area. The activity is found HERE under “more fun stuff”.

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Resources For Earth Day (And Beyond)

April 22 is Earth Day! This month’s PBS LearningMedia California Newsletter spotlights resources for environmental awareness and learning hand-picked by the KQED Education team. READ MORE about videos, slide shows, and articles to GREEN up your Earth Day Activities.

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“Oh Trout!” – A Learning Activity

This is a very fun, active learning activity emphasizing what trout need to survive.  It is adapted from “Oh Deer” from the Project WILD Terrestrial guide (many teachers receive the Aquatic Guide at their TIC training workshop)


oh deer





  1. Prepare a graph ahead of time to record population fluctuations.
  2. Mark two parallel lines on the ground 10 to 20 yards a part. Ask students to count off in fours. The ones become the “trout” and line up behind one line with their backs to the other students. The other students become habitat components necessary to survive (food, water, and shelter) and line up behind the other line with their backs to the “trout”.
  3. Explain that the trout need to find food, water, and shelter in order to survive in their environment. If they do not then they will die.
  4. In this activity when the “trout” is looking for food, it should clamp its hands over its stomach. When a “trout” is looking for water, it should put its hand over its mouth. When a “trout” is looking for shelter, it holds its hands together over its head.
  5. A “trout” can choose to look for any one of its needs during each round of the activity. Emphasize that the “trout” cannot change what it is looking for during a round. It can only change what is looking for at the beginning of each round. Remind the trout that if they don’t find anyone in the habitat making their sign, they die and become part of the habitat; they don’t “lose.”
  6. The other students are the food, water, and shelter. Students get to choose what they want to be at the beginning of the round. They show their choice in the same way as the “trout” have. Emphasize to these students that they cannot change what component they are during a round. They can only change at the beginning of each round.
  7.  Ask the students to hypothesize whether or not all the trout will survive.
  8.  The teacher should begin the first round by asking all students to make their signs—hand over stomach, mouth, or head. Emphasize that students should choose one of these symbols before turning around to face the other group.
  9.  When the students are ready tell them to “GO!” At this time each “trout” and each “habitat component” turns to face the opposite group continuing to hold their sign clearly.
  10.  When the “trout” see the “habitat component” that matches what they need, they are to run to it. Each “trout” must hold the sign of what it is looking for until getting to the matching “habitat component.”
  11. Once the “trout” find their correct component they should take it back to their line, and the “habitat component” becomes a “trout”. Any “trout” who fails to find its “habitat component” dies becomes a “habitat component” on the other side and becomes available as food, water, or shelter to the “trout” who are still alive.
  12. “Habitat components” not taken by a “trout” continue to be “habitat components”.
  13. Count the number of trout and mark it on the graph, showing the students how the population has increased.  Then ask them whether they think the next year of the game will be as successful for the larger number of trout and smaller habitat.
  14. Play another round and record the results several more times, always asking students to hypothesize what will happen before each round. This demonstrates that hypotheses don’t have to be correct to learn from them.
  15. After 4-5 rounds, ask the students what they’ve learned about fish populations.  They should be able to tell you that trout/wildlife populations vary based on the availability of food, water and shelter.
  16. (Optional) Give students goldfish crackers to eat, since they did such a great job being trout and must be hungry now.





Oh Deer Game Directions adapted from Project Wild Teacher’s Guide


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