Congratulations To Teachers In Santa Clara and Santa Cruz

A big thank you and congratulations to teachers in the STEP (Salmon and Trout Education Program) program who hatched native rainbow trout this year.

The STEP program generally uses steelhead eggs from a private hatchery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. For the second year in a row, the hatchery was unable to provide eggs for classroom incubation. CDFW made rainbow trout eggs available to all teachers in the program.

The experience was very positive for students and teachers alike as students were exposed to curriculum on anadromous and non-anadromous fish, elements of healthy habitat, and how human actions impact these habitats. The fish were released into a variety of popular freshwater lakes in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. CDFW has received glowing reports from the teachers who opted in to this experience.

These teachers took on an extra burden as they needed to learn a new release site (as rainbow trout must be released into freshwater lakes that do not connect with a stream to protect steelhead) and they had to take on much of the work normally handled by their sponsor. They took on the extra burden and did it well.

trout release 4We have no idea what the future holds for this part of the Bay Area Classroom Aquarium Education Program as the combined issues of the drought, issues at this hatchery, and financial concerns for the sponsor are persistent. CDFW will continue to support all teachers trained to hatch fish in their classrooms.

A big thank you to the individuals and organizations that stepped up to support these teachers

  • CDFW Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response
  • City of Santa Cruz
  • Guadalupe River Park Conservancy
  • Mt. Shasta and Darrah Springs Fish Hatcheries
  • San Jose Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services
  • Santa Clara County Parks
  • Silverado Fisheries Base
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Native California Rainbow Trout

rainbow trout

In 1855, the first California rainbow trout were “discovered” in Redwood Creek (Berkeley) and named by Dr. W.P. Gibbons, the founder of the California Academy of Sciences. Of course, native Californians were well aware of the existence of these fish long before that.

Both wild and hatchery strains of rainbow trout continue to exist in waters throughout the state.

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Survey of Newly Trained Teachers Provides Insight on Training

Every year we ask newly trained teachers how well they were prepared for the experience of hatching fish. After they have completed their first cycle of hatching fish, we send an online survey asking them to evaluate (or grade) our efforts at preparing them. Here are the results of this years evaluation.

Method: An online survey ( was sent to first year teachers following the completion of their first year in the program. The responses and analysis follow.

Abstract: We are doing something right. The workshops are effective and many of the materials we share with teachers are very useful in the classroom. There is still room for improvement and some opportunity to make educationally helpful adjustments to our workshops.

Forty-two out of the 111 new teachers responded to the survey, a healthy 38%, which is over 10X the average response to national polls or surveys. The results are representative of the entire group within 3-4 %.

How useful was the workshop?

  • Very:           68%
  • Pretty:         19%
  • Somewhat: 12%
  • A little:         0
  • Not at all:   0

Analysis: The great news here is that all the responses are in the top three categories. My concern is with the teachers who said the workshop was only somewhat useful. The challenge for us is to make the workshop even more useful, based on the responses to the following questions.

How useful was each part of the workshop?

Responses below reflect the responses to the “very useful” top choice.

  • Meeting with the club sponsor:  71%
    • Project Wild Aquatic activities:  67%
    • Biologist presentation:                 61%
    • Tank setup demonstration:         60%
    • How to fill out and handle 772:  56%
    • Wild About Trout CD:                  54%
    • Networking with teachers:          43%

Analysis: These results are validating and show that most of the workshop activities are on target. The fact that less than half felt that meeting with other teachers was useful can indicate several things: a) it was late in the day and they may have been on overload by then; b) we didn’t give them specific enough instructions, such as focusing on the NGSS or Core Curriculum; or c) teachers don’t find talking to each other at this early point in the program that useful.

How useful were the posters, booklets and handouts?

Responses reflect those who said the resource was excellent.

  • Set of 3 trout posters:               88%
  • Trout life stages poster:           83%
  • Macro-invertebrate poster: 76%
  • Teacher Resource Manual:   73%
  • Egg development poster:       68%
  • Return to the Redd:                 50%
  • Wild About Trout CD:             48%
  • What Flows Where poster:   39%
  • Salmon Source CD:                   22%
  • Trout & Salmon Go to K:           5%

Analysis: The responses to this question are informative. Teachers loved all the posters Ed Huff created, and they were up in virtually every classroom. We need to revise the Teacher Resource Manual so more than 73% find it useful; it is heartening that it was rated 73% the first year, but this should be the main resource for all teachers. The CDs weren’t rated highly by over half the teachers, which may reflect the lack of ability to use them easily or the lack of the equipment to do so in many classrooms. Even the lowest rated items were still useful to 39% and 22% of teachers, so it’s a toss-up whether we should skip them or continue to provide them to the teachers who find them useful. The lowest rated item, the booklet for kindergarten, simply reflects that 5% of the teachers teach that grade level.

SSince the workshop, how many times have you …

Many times     A couple of times

  • used Project Wild Activities?:                         33%                     43%
  • used Wild About Trout CD?:                           26%                     33%
  • encouraged another teacher to sign up?:      22%                     39%
  • visited the CAEP website?:                              20%                     39%
  • had sponsor talk to students?:                        17%                     20%
  • visited TIC on Facebook?:                                10%                     24%       One time
  • visited lake or stream in addition to release? 0%                     10%           26%

Analysis: These figures are amazing. 76% of teachers used two or more PWA activities. 59% used the Wild About Trout CD at least 2 times. And 61% of teachers encouraged another teacher to sign up—an incredible vote of approval of the TIC program. 37% of teachers asked their sponsor to speak with the class two or more times, a big vote of confidence in the value of active sponsor participation. And an amazing 36% visited a lake or stream in addition to the one visited on release day; this is highly unusual because so many classes are limited to one fieldtrip per year. It demonstrates that students are being exposed to more outdoor educational experiences than the program requires, an important statement by the teachers on the value of environmental stewardship, place-based and hands-on learning.

Were other topics discussed with students, in addition to trout life cycle and watersheds?

  • Invasive species:     83% of teachers
  • Urban runoff:             79%
  • Releasing pets:         76%
  • Fly fishing:                 36% (probably by coaches from flyfishing clubs?)

Analysis: The vast majority of teachers included a variety of relevant and closely related topics as part of their TIC unit. This paints a broader and more complete picture for students of trout and the challenges to the health of their habitat.

How do you feel about these aspects of the workshop?

These answers reflect the “excellent” responses.

  • Expertise of trainers:               90% rated us excellent
  • Helpfulness of trainers:           86%
  • Refreshments:                             78%
  • The workshop room:                 69%
  • Ease of finding workshop site: 67%

Analysis: Since nationwide studies show that only 17% of attendees on average think any presenter anywhere did a good job, we are way ahead of the averages. It is more amazing since the presenters include CDFW employees, fisheries biologists, experienced TIC teachers, and flyfishers. It also shows that when people receive information that is immediately applicable to their lives, they value it highly. We might include a simple map of the workshop sites from now on to help teachers who don’t use GoogleMaps or other apps.

Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that would improve future workshops?

(¼ of respondents shared additional comments)

  • Schedule the workshops closer to the egg delivery date
  • I need 6 copies of Race to the Redd so all my students can play simultaneously. PS: It’s a piece of artwork. It is just beautiful.
  • More time needed on tank setup
  • Incorporate more NGSS in training
  • Please start a little later on weekends
  • Provide more time to network with grade-level teachers regarding Common Core and NGSS (This was only valued by 42% of teachers in responses to another question, and provides food for thought about retaining what a large percentage of teachers value, even if that percentage is less than 50%.)
  • More time on tank setup and managing the tank
  • Have Spanish copies of Wild About Trout available
  • More time to write up a timeline and plan with sponsor
  • More time on tanks, set-up, common problems, and raising of trout

Analysis: More time for NGSS and Core Curriculum is a common denominator on many responses throughout the survey. So is the request for more time on tank set-up and management. We should consider finding time for these at our next series of workshops. One solution: the Teachers Resource Manual might be modified to focus on a sequential progression of activities beginning with the week before egg delivery and ending with the follow-up to the trout release, with suggestions of activities to do at each stage. We could include a visual timeline to accompany the chart, so teachers can be assured that their tanks are prepared for egg delivery and that they know when to begin the lessons that accompany the unit.

Another solution would be to re-focus the workshop on the most requested activities, minimizing any others that might not be as highly valued. This will be a challenge, as the workshop is already ½ – 1 hour too long by many. But if we include the less requested activities in the Teachers’ Resource Manual, we can point them out at the workshops and they can refer to them later. If we simply can’t drop anything, we need to find a way to make each presentation briefer and/or more to the point.

We could also offer enrichment workshops for the hundreds of teachers who haven’t been exposed to the Teachers Resource Manual at a workshop yet. These could be done in the fall and still leave us time for 3-4 workshops in January and February before the eggs are delivered. This would respond to the request that workshops be offered closer to the time the eggs are delivered, to aide recall of the material, especially the tank setup. And that is another argument for rearranging the Teacher’s Resource Manual more linearly so it serves as a sequential reference during the TIC/SIC unit.

Analysis by Bob Flasher, Interpretive Science Aide, CDFW, who is also open to other interpretations of the data. Comments are appreciated at the Sponsors end-of-year wrap-up meeting on 6/6/15. We are all in this together. Or as the Reverend MLK Jr. pointed out, “We may have come over on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.” And hopefully, that is a flyfishing boat.

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Remember To Return Your Permit!

After releasing your fish, teachers are required to complete the bottom portion of the 772 permit and return the entire permit either directly to CDFW or to your sponsor (check with your sponsor to see what they prefer). Complete all sections on the bottom of the permit, sign it, and make a copy for your records.

If you are sending directly to CDFW, you may send it by:

Mail: 7329 Silverado Trail, Napa, 94558

Fax: (707) 944-5563


You can check the status of your permit at the link above titled “772 Permits Complete 2015″. It is YOUR responsibility to return your permit and check the status.

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The Year (of hatching fish) In Review

It has been a spectacular year for hatching fish despite the continuation of the drought in our state.

LARGEST PROGRAM IN THE NATION: 460 classes applied for permits in the Bay Area – that makes us the SINGLE LARGEST PROGRAM in the entire nation! 10% of all classes participating in programs that hatch fish across the country are part of the Bay Area Classroom Aquarium Education Program. Essentially, we rock. This is possible in large part due to the high level of participation of your sponsor. Be sure to say thanks to them!

TEACHERS CONQUER DROUGHT: Many teachers in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties had successful years hatched rainbow trout for the very first time! The drought has made it impossible for these teachers to receive steelhead trout eggs for the 2nd year in a row. Rather than sit out yet another year, these adventurous souls tried something new helping their students learn that rainbow and steelhead are really the same species. Congratulations!

STRONG FISH SURVIVAL RATES: Almost all classrooms that received eggs successfully hatched and released fish despite higher than average egg mortality rates this year. In an effort to get the eggs into classrooms earlier (thus allowing more time for the eggs to remain in the tanks), CDFW delivered younger eggs than normal. This resulted in higher mortality rates of the eggs, and we saw a lower than average mortality rate in the fry (although I doubt these are related). There were surprisingly  few classes experienced “total tank failure” (fancy words for the entire tank going belly up).

EVERY MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER HATCHED FISH: Oakley School District started a new program with ALL MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE classes hatching and releasing fish. They created curriculum to allow students to participate in the program 3 years in a row and each time study fish from a different perspective. Our congratulations to superstar teacher and TIC curriculum specialist Amy Di Maggio for her outstanding leadership.

PLEDGE TO PROTECT FISH: Marin Municipal Water District created a  Mt. Tam pledge for students. At the release, MMWD staff lead students in a pledge then allow each individual to agree to the pledge by putting an inked thumbprint on the sheet. This beautifully adorned pledge card goes to the school with the teacher to be posted on the classroom wall.

It was another great year. Clean your tank, store it for the summer, write down your ideas for next year and have a great summer. (OH – a remember to send your completed permit back to your sponsor or to CDFW)

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Release Day Activities

The release day is one of the most exciting days in the process of hatching fish. Bob Flasher created this list of activities you can use to extend the learning and fun on your release day:

Science: Create a template for observing the weather and the ecosystem of the trout’s new habitat. This can be easily photocopied to distribute for attendees students to fill out. Items on this template may include: temperature of the air (if no thermometer is available they can write “hot, cold, mild,”), temperature of the water, biotic factors, abiotic factors, the amount of wind and sunshine. This template may also include an area to draw, color, and label the location.

Tracy Fly Fisher teaches casting to students at Shadow Cliffs Reservoir

Tracy Fly Fisher teaches casting to students at Shadow Cliffs Reservoir

Language arts: Standing in a circle, ask students to share how they feel about today’s activities. Another option is to challenge them to come up with one word that best describes their experience today. They may also want to share wishes for the survival of their trout in the wild. Then, in their journal, record observations of the watershed, feelings about freeing the trout, poems about the trout life cycle, etc.
Physical education: Play Oh Trout! to return student focus to the basic needs of trout: food, water and shelter. If you’ve already played this enough, do Habitat Lap Sit instead.
Habitat Lap Sit: Students form a shoulder-to-shoulder circle. Have each student in turn call out the basic survival needs of trout, going around the circle (food, water, shelter, food, water, shelter, etc). All students then turn to face one direction so they are looking at each others backs. Take two or three sideways steps toward the center of the circle. (Students should now be uncomfortably close to each other.) Instruct everyone to put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. If this is still a reach, have everyone take a few more steps toward the center of the circle. Then on the count of three, students, keeping their knees together, try to sit on the knees of the student behind them…as the student in front of them tries to sit on their knees in turn. If the habitat has all the basic needs in the right places at the right time, the circle of sitting students will hold. If it doesn’t, the whole ecosystem will collapse. After a collapse, ask students if they would like to try again, telling them that students in one grade below theirs did it successfully.
More science: Play Ecosystem Connections, a game in which students become scientists trying to see the connections between everything in the watershed. Groups of 6-7 students stand in a circle, shoulder-to-shoulder. Each reaches across the circle and grabs the hand of one other student. (This simulates one of the local ecological connections like trout eating insects, or sunshine growing plants.) Then each student reaches across the circle with their free hand and grabs the hand of a different student. The challenge is now to untangle this knot of inter-relationships to see the connections more clearly. Students can rotate hands, but cannot let go of hands while they work cooperatively to untangle the knot. Most groups will succeed. Some end up in one circle and others in two interlocking ones. If some groups finish quickly, ask them to form a new knot and try again to see whether their success was luck or skill. Some get stuck and you can tell that group that it’s nighttime now and interactions will change. Ask students to release one hand and grab a different hand, then try to untangle the new nighttime knot. If they still can’t succeed, you can tell them that ecological relationships are so complex that scientists still haven’t figured out most of them.

MMWD pledgejpg_Page1
Culinary Arts: Have a parent volunteer bake trout-shaped cookies, which the students can decorate with icing, sprinkles, etc. Another option is to make chocolate trout beforehand using a mold. These can be shared with chaperones, principals, and the press on release day.
Community Interaction: Invite your sponsor or local park agency to attend the release and sponsor activities such as fly casting, macroinvertabrate studies, invasive species programs, or bird walks.

Have fun experiencing the watershed that your aquarium simulated. Appreciate the birds, dragonflies, newts, and other wildlife that are sharing your trout’s habitat. Send us your ideas and copies of the work generated by your students

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Invasive Species Art Contest

Here is a great follow up to your class project hatching and releasing fish. Now your students have released fish, they can engage in other activities, including the art contest, to learn ways to ensure the fish have healthy habitat.

The Art Contest is open to students in grades 2-12 and they can submit an entry using a variety of media.

The contest is a part of California Invasive Species Action Week being held June 6 -14.

Join the excitement – there are a variety of fun activities held around the Bay Area for families and schools.

Image result for zebra mussels

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