Learning By Doing


Value: Engaging actively in classroom and outdoor activities makes the Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) effective for teachers and students of all ages. It also makes learning much more enjoyable.  Providing a teacher manual ensures that teachers will have a valuable future reference. The trout posters and “WILD About Trout” CD visually aid teachers and students, enhancing learning.

“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover.  Teaching really means creating situations where discovery can occur.”   Jean Piaget

Main goals of CAEP workshops:

  • Prepare teachers to engage their students in active learning about local wildlife and watersheds
  • Provide teachers with information needed to legally participate in the CAEP (Trout in the Classroom and Steelhead in the Classroom) program.
  • Help teachers learn to assemble and operate a classroom aquarium
  • Provide access to curricula, support materials, and sponsors/coaches
  • Participate in an active workshop at which participants learn by interacting with each other during a variety of engaging activities.

To accomplish some of these goals, participants engage in a variety of activities:

Learning to Look: In pairs, we observe each other. Then we turn our backs and change one feature of our personal appearance. Next we face each other again and try to spot the change in our partner. The point: observation skills are one of the most important science skills. And playing this game before taking a hike or touring a nature center has proven to enhance subsequent observation skills. The point: interacting with each other at the beginning of a workshop is energizing and sets the stage for cooperative learning.

People Sort: We often progress to a game in which 2 participants are chosen to be in Group A and two others are chosen to be in Group B, based on one physical feature that differentiates the groups. Then everyone tries to guess what that feature is.  Whoever guesses correctly gets to lead the next round.  The amazing thing about this game is that there are potentially multiple possible correct answers—something that never happens in a classroom setting.  For example, the differentiating feature chosen might be glasses or no glasses. But these same groups might also have other differentiating features in common like blue jeans or shorts, height, hair color, earrings, etc.  All the responses are validated while the group is trying to arrive at the one chosen by the facilitator.  The student facilitator changes with each round, so the teacher isn’t always the expert in charge. The points: students can be teachers too, games are fun, and observation skills are valuable.

“The purpose of education should not simply be the collection of information, but rather the encouragement of creativity, imagination, and independent thinking.”  Margaret Kelley, Tilden Nature Area Supervisor


Return to the Redd trout life cycle board game-like learning activity and Macro-invertebrate ID challenge: These are migration simulation and sorting games invented by flyfishers and educators to simulate the salmonid life cycle and determine stream/lake health respectively.  Example: Sampling the macro-invertebrates (three photos in a zip lock bag given to a pair of students) can determine creek water purity without chemical kits, when matched with the Isaak Walton League macro-invertebrate chart. The point: better understanding of the trout life cycle and the importance of clean water through engaging challenges.

We follow up the Return to the Redd trout life cycle game with an active physical game Hooks and Ladders (from Aquatic Project Wild) in which we are steelhead migrating to the ocean and back, dodging predators, water pumps and anglers in the process. The point: actually experiencing the hurdles trout face and need to overcome during migration makes it real.

Oh Trout! simulates fish looking for the basics of survival: food, cool water and shelter, in a game played in rounds and graphed to see population fluctuations over time. The point: learn to see patterns by recording population fluctuations during an engaging activity and understand that energy flows through the environment and through life itself.

Image result for oh deer game

We sometimes also play Protect the Redd (a variation of Muskox Maneuvers from Project Wild), in which a rogue trout tries to get in on the action at the Redd while the pair of salmonids tries to defend it (triangle tag). Roles (redd, salmon pair, intruder) change during each round of the game. The point: experience both the competition and cooperation in nature as roles change.

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.”   Chinese proverb

Summary: Most interpreters, teachers and public speakers, despite believing that they offer engaging programs, spend about 75% of their time lecturing. It is critically important to provide engaging, enjoyable, interactive activities in our programs to make sure we aren’t making this common mistake.  This workshop models how to truly engage participants in activities and with each other. Research shows that students who are actively engaged in their learning will enjoy their experience, learn more and remember it longer.

“If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.  It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.”  Rachel Carson

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Applications For Eggs Are Being Accepted

eggs 3Please remember to submit your application for eggs NO LATER than December 15, 2018. We have updated the application form and ask you use the new version.

Applications should be sent as a PDF (no photographs accepted) to R3CAEP@wildlife.ca.gov. You should send a copy to your sponsor as well.

Teachers in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties can check the online list to see which date is best for you to receive your eggs. For all others we anticipate distributing eggs the week of February 26, 2019.

Once you apply, you can check the status of your application at http://www.classroomaquarium.wordpress.com (there is a link at the top of the page).

Teachers who are new to the program should apply for eggs at their training workshop.

This year we are increasing the number of eggs each teacher receives from 35 to 50!

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Whale Tail Grants Available

whale tailLooking for funding for an ocean education or coastal stewardship project for underserved youth or the general public?  The California Coastal Commission is accepting applications to the WHALE TAIL® grants program between now and November 5, 2018 from nonprofits, schools, or public agencies.  There is a special subcategory for projects addressing climate change as it relates to the ocean or coastline, and a new subcategory for smaller organizations working with underserved communities.  A total of $370,000 will be awarded.  For full guidelines and the application, see https://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/plate/plgrant.html.

Also, you’re invited to sign up for a webinar for applicants (especially less experienced applicants) on Wednesday, October 10th from 3:30-4:30.  Register from the grants webpage at https://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/plate/plgrant.html.

If you opt to apply for this or any other grant, please let Ethan know as he can help you write the grant, supply a letter of support, and provide valuable information on the program.

Protect our Coast & Ocean with a Whale Tail Plate at www.ecoplates.com or on your California tax form at Checkthecoast.org.

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Perils of Plastics – A Classroom Activity

Perils of Plastic is an activity for grades 6-12 to help students learn about the world’s largest “landfill,” make a connection to their own lives, and calculate how much trash they generate in a week, a year, and ten years.


Image result for plastics in ocean



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Looking For Money To Grow Your Program?

cashHere is a list of  Teacher Grants Catalog that may help you do more as you help students explore fish, watersheds, and how human actions impact these.

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Spring Hill Elementary School project

Laura Spain projectHere is the end of year student project used for Open House!  Kids make ceramic trout with all appropriate anatomy, lateral line, etc.    Then make a river habitat inside their cubbies for their trout to be displayed in for Open House!!  They have to write facts to go inside as well.

Super fun!



Laura Spain = Teacher supreme

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Surveys and Studies Show Alameda Creek Trout Are Still Migratory

trout in handThe San Francisco Public Utility Commission (SFPUC) has been surveying Alameda Creek’s native rainbow trout populations below the major dams for several years, to track population sizes and determine if resident rainbow trout are smolting. A smolt is a young trout after the parr stage, when it becomes silvery and migrates to the sea for the first time.

The SFPUC has been operating a screw trap and a fyke net trap in upper Alameda creek to sample native fish, and although only a handful of trout have been caught this year, some of them appear to be smolting. A smolt caught in 2015 in the upper Sunol Valley was definitely headed to the Bay to become a steelhead. The SFPUC surveys are confirming suspicions that our resident trout populations below the dam still have some migratory component that can smolt, go to the ocean, and return as adult steelhead.

Check out more photos and videos of the Alameda Creek trout surveys on the Alameda Creek Alliance Facebook page.

A recent report by the Institute of Marine Sciences and Southwest Fisheries Science Center has documented that Alameda Creek’s landlocked rainbow trout above the major dams, in Calaveras Reservoir and San Antonio Reservoir, still have a strong genetic marker for migratory behavior. The report, Ancestry and Adaptive Evolution of Anadromous, Resident, and Adfluvial Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus Mykiss) in the San Francisco Bay Area, looked at resident steelhead/rainbow trout populations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Genetic analysis determined that resident trout in Bay Area streams are more closely related to native coastal steelhead than to Central Valley trout, that there is no evidence of interbreeding with hatchery rainbow trout, and that trout populations above and below dams and other barriers within Bay Area watersheds are each other’s closest relatives.

The study looked at an adaptive genome associated with migratory life-history traits in trout, and found substantial evolutionary differences between trout above and below Bay Area dams. Within the Bay Area, most trout populations above dams had low frequencies of alleles associated with anadromy (migration to and from fresh to salt water). However, in Alameda Creek, trout in Arroyo Hondo and Indian Creek, which flow into the large Calaveras and San Antonio Reservoirs, have retained the genetic variants and migratory behavior associated with anadromy. Alameda Creek reservoir fish had the highest observed frequencies of migratory alleles.

In other words, Alameda Creek trout below the dams still produce steelhead offspring, and trout above the dams still strongly retain the genetic marker for migratory steelhead behavior. Good news for using these trout populations to jump—start a restored steelhead run once the fish ladders are completed in the lower creek.

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