Teacher responses to survey on hatching fish in a COVID-environment

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP)

Report date: September 1, 2020


The Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) is a statewide educational program that encourages teachers to hatch salmonids in their classrooms for release into the waters of California. To be eligible, teachers must attend a training workshop and receive a 772 permit (permit to hold, transport, and release fish) from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The program exists in all land=based regions of the state. There are statewide guidelines and requirements for the program and each region is allowed discretion on certain aspects of implementation. While most teachers hatch trout for release into specified lakes, Chinook Salmon and steelhead are used where appropriate.

Project Overview

As schools quickly transitioned to remote learning in early 2020 in response to the Covid-19 situation, CAEP coordinators recognized the program would need to be adapted to best support teachers in the new environment. While it was unclear what the 2020/21 school year would look like, regional coordinators wanted to be ready for any situation. This program requires a significant amount of teacher time and therefore attracts teachers with a high level of motivation in regards to teaching environmental concepts and who are extremely dedicated to creative teaching methods, we wanted to gauge teachers feelings and attitudes about hatching fish in the coming year under a variety of teaching strategies. We also wanted to know which technological solutions (platforms and apps) teachers were using and had access to in their schools.


We estimate approximately 1200 teachers from all land-based regions were sent a survey link of which 413 unique responses were received. While the vast majority of the respondents were teachers with valid permits for hatching fish in the 2019/20 school year, there was a small number of “coaches” and teachers who have expressed an interest in the program but have not hatched fish responding.

Survey results were interpreted and evaluated by Gail Davis and Bridget Kennedy with Tara Stogner providing the final interpretation, findings, and executive summary. Ethan Rotman was lead on the project with Richard Munoz, Gail Davis, Jennifer O’Brien creating and implementing the survey tool. Most CAEP staff participated in sending the survey link to their teachers.

The survey link was sent out in mid-April 2020 and left open for approximately 1 month.

Executive Summary

Due to the current dynamic standards of social distancing and stay at home orders, many participants had unsure responses. However, even with all of the uncertainty, it is clear that the majority of CAEP teachers are eager to find ways to continue hatching fish. Overall, 83% of teachers responded stating they are likely to participate in some form of fish hatching next year.

Across all regions, there was an overwhelming majority of teachers opting to have aquariums at home, if needed, in order to continue facilitating the program to students. Most responded “yes” while the next most commonly selected answer was “Maybe, need more information”. In future surveys, it would be very beneficial to include an open answer field for additional feedback on the question so that further inferences can be made off of the qualitative data.

The most preferred digital distance learning resource chosen in this survey was Google Classrooms, closely followed by Zoom, and then Flipgrid, Seesaw, and Microsoft teams. This is valuable information to use when deciding where to host some of your program’s activities, however, it is important to note this survey was conducted in May of 2020, and teachers’ competency and comfort with newer online teaching tools likely increased over the summer.

Responses on preferred distance learning resources and tools used were quite extensive. No single approach will fit the needs of every classroom, but with that being said there are some approaches that will satisfy many. The most common tool mentioned/requested throughout the teachers’ comments was the use of videos. Videos in many different formats such as more informative or demo videos, prerecorded and live interviews of professionals, live streams of tanks, and of activities that students can do at home would provide a lot of value to classrooms during distance learning. Important comments to note were how to address students with limited/no internet access as well as making more multi-lingual and those created for students with special needs resources available.

Along with the creation of individual resources such as videos, assignments, or PDFs, there was a lot of feedback from teachers asking for the resources to be in a universal format, allowing them to be integrated into their own curriculum platform, whatever that may be (mostly google classrooms or zoom). It was important that they can pick and choose different resources and plug them in where it fits best for their class. Also, being aligned with NGSS was also a very popular request, many teachers listed specific standards they’d like to address through CAEP.

The preferred workshop style was a mixed one consisting of live and prerecorded content. Following the mixed style of training was the live single day webinar and in-person single day training. The single-day options were more favorable overall with the self-guided online training following closely behind.

In conclusion, it is obvious that being flexible and as accommodating as possible to our teachers is key this upcoming year. Many teachers are clearly dedicated to providing CAEP in whatever way possible. While a dedicated platform has not been designated it may be beneficial to host any CAEP resources or training through these popular platforms to provide optimal accessibility.


  • Create videos; a mix of live and prerecorded assets were heavily requested
  • Make resources easily accessible; teachers would like resources to be provided in/on a universal format/platform that allows them to plug in resources wherever fits best in their lesson plan
  • Consider providing resources on platforms such as Google Classrooms, Zoom, FlipGrid, and Seesaw; these are the most used platforms
  • Live stream aquariums
  • Match NGSS Standards as much as possible with any resources created and/or provided
  • Provide distance learning resource options for classrooms that do not have internet access
  • Provide resources in multi-lingual and special needs options whenever possible
  • Convert any existing non-digital resources (posters, worksheets, etc.) into digital format


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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