“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


About Ethan Rotman

Ethan Rotman (Bayareatic) manages and coordinates programs that hatch fish in classrooms for the San Francisco Bay Area. He also chairs the committee that manages these programs throughout the state. Ethan has worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for over 20 years.
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