What do an Elementary School Principle, fisherman, third grader, and town Mayor all have in common? Well, in Estes Park, they all braved the icy waters to raise money for Trout in the Classroom!
Colorado Trout Unlimited and our local chapters are proud to support environmental education programs that get kids outdoors and bring unique learning opportunities into the classroom. Trout in the Classroom is one such project. The program works with teachers to raise trout from eggs to fry throughout the school year, providing unique teaching opportunities along the way and culminating in an end-of-year release. Unfortunately, the equipment required to grow fish in a classroom isn’t cheap.
Fortunately, local businesses and leaders in the Estes park community refused to let costs stand in the way of bringing TIC to their school. Led by local resident, Joe Bottoms of Trout Haven Resorts, the town organized a Polar Plunge in the middle of one of the snowiest winters in a decade. Here’s how it went:
Story by: Joe Bottoms
The 2019 Polar Bear Plunge was held at Trout Haven Resorts on March 2 with a great turnout, despite the weather. The first annual fundraiser was held to start a Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program in the Estes Park Elementary School. Community members and local business teams took the plunge to raise the money for two state-of-the-art aquariums that are now installed in the third grade department. Starting March 12, students will be working with a fisheries biologist to hatch and raise rainbow trout, with in-depth lessons in trout ecology at each life stage.
Third graders were chosen as the beneficiaries of this project because the TIC program aligns with the Colorado Department of Education's third grade standards for learning, but the program is going to grow to other grade levels as well as the middle and high schools as the program evolves. This year, third graders will be learning about the rainbow trout's life cycle, habitat selection, temperature-dependent growth and development, and general trout ecology. They will also be doing dissections, which is always the favorite lesson. We are partnering with the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition to do a field trip to streams that are scoured and streams that have been restored after the 2013 flood to identify good trout habitat and demonstrate the benefits of freshwater conservation and restoration.
The 2019 Polar Bear Plunge raised $5,300, which funded the two aquariums to be used this spring. The remainder is being donated to Trout Unlimited to carry the TIC program forward and expand trout conservation in the Estes Valley. Over 100 people attended, and over sixty took the plunge themselves. Among notable jumpers was the principal of Estes Park Elementary School John Bryant, President of TU's Alpine Anglers (chapter #453) Mike Larned, Mayor Todd Jirsa, and an a number of third grade students excited about their new aquariums!
Thanks to all who contributed and participated; we hope to get third graders excited about environmental conservation and that some of them will go on to do great things in the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park!