Why Teach About Brook Trout

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are part of the trout and Salmon (Salmonid) family and they are the only native trout to the majority of the eastern United States. Other names for the species include Brookie, native trout, natives, or speckled trout. They are typically found in stream habitats that have permanent cool or coldwater spring sources. Brook trout survive in only the coldest and cleanest water as they are very sensitive to changes in water temperature and water quality. Ideal Brook trout streams are protected by a closed canopy forest cover that shade the stream and maintains the cold water temperature. They are a popular game fish with anglers and many fisherman practice catch and release tactics to preserve populations.

Why Should YOU Teach About Brook Trout?

Since Brook trout are sensitive to water quality and water temperature, the species serves as an indicator of stream health. Strong thriving Brook trout populations signify a healthy stream with excellent water quality, while declining populations can indicate a deteriorating ecosystem. There has been a steep decline in some natural Brook trout populations in the recent past because their specific habitat requirements have been threatened by human development, urbanization and poor land management.

How Can YOU Teach About Brook Trout?

Brook trout are generally commonly known fish due to their rich history with fisherman. This fish is a great resource to discuss scientific topics, such as ecosystem food chains/webs, water delivery, and effects of the climate and seasons. In addition to science, Brook trout serve as a key species to discuss social issues, such as human impact on the environment and conservation.

Trout Unlimited is an agency that has created some of the best teaching resources for Brook trout. They have developed a program called “Trout in the Classroom” and the website has numerous lesson plans and links for more information. They also provide the opportunity for students to connect with their watersheds by raising trout eggs, monitoring classroom tank for water quality, and eventually releasing the fish into the wild.

Want to hear about the experience from another teacher?  Are you interested in participating a Trout in the Classroom program at your school?  Read about Trout in Triadelphia Classrooms! The blog also provides links to state-specific Trout in the Classroom programs.  Or you can take a look at these featured lesson plans and resources:

  • Back the Brookies:  These education modules from Trout Unlimited introduce students to the Brook trout, its history, biology, geographic range, what it needs to thrive and what conservation organizations are doing to protect it.  The modules will also helps students learn about watersheds, the water cycle, the importance of clean air and water (both to the Brook trout and humans), acid rain, and more.
  • Trout VS Aliens:  By participating in this lesson, students will learn about the potential impact of non- native species on trout populations and will understand that there may be several ways that non-native aquatic species can spread.  This lesson for middle school students is aligned to Maryland State Curriculum Standards for science, language arts, social studies, and environmental literacy.
  • A Watershed of Ideas: A Curriculum Guide for Virginia Trout in the Classroom:  This extensive, 171 page curriculum guide leads educators through the process of raising trout in their classroom and provides lesson plans that will help make the experience meaningful for your students.  Lessons are aligned to Virginia Standards of Learning and Environmental Education Standards. Though the resource is directed at Virginia teachers, the lesson plans and resources that are highlighted can be used or adapted for use throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
  • Bay Backpack Fish Resources:  Take a look at Bay Backpack’s teacher resources about fish!  You can even narrow down the results by your school level, subject discipline, and more.
  • Chesapeake Bay Program From the Field Video: Linking Land and Water in Brook Trout Conservation:  Brook trout play a critical role in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but without cool, clean water, the fish cannot survive. Working in headwater states, Chesapeake Bay Program partners are promoting land conservation and habitat restoration as ways to clean up local waterways and conserve the iconic species.

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