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.

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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

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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