Trout in the Classroom

Polar Plunge Raises Money for Local Youth

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:

Local elementary school Principle, John Bryant, takes the plunge to help raise money for TIC tanks in his school.

Local elementary school Principle, John Bryant, takes the plunge to help raise money for TIC tanks in his school.

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. 


Local students take the plunge!

Local students take the plunge!

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!

Local 3rd Graders make the leap to help raise money for a TIC tank in their classroom!

Local 3rd Graders make the leap to help raise money for a TIC tank in their classroom!

President of Alpine Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Mike Larned, prepares his jump!

President of Alpine Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Mike Larned, prepares his jump!

Trout in the Classroom: The Eggs have Arrived!

Trout in the classroom (TIC) is an environmental education experience that fosters hands-on learning through the rearing of trout from eggs to fry.  The program provides K-12 students meaningful opportunities to apply relative topics taught in the curriculum to the life cycles emerging before them, as well as to the variety of challenges that arise out of maintaining a steady state environment for the growing trout.  A General Overview...

While the Trout in the Classroom program has been adopted on a robust level in many states throughout the U.S., it is just beginning to emerge as a teaching tool for schools here in Colorado.  In 2016, Colorado TU supported five sites around the state.  In 2017, we expect that number to more than double, with TIC programs being adopted by teachers, TU chapters, and their local communities throughout the state.  The sites will range from elementary school classrooms to college science labs and can be found across Colorado –from the suburbs of Aurora, to the Grand Mesa on the Western Slope.

Trout in the Classroom offers a high degree of flexibility for teachers when it comes to applying trout life cycles to the core curriculum.  Lesson plans can be adapted to link learning objectives with “real world” outcomes.

For example, students at a site in Blackhawk, CO routinely help test the water quality of their tank; identifying potential issues (i.e. the water is becoming too acidic), using problem solving skills to propose solutions (add “x amount” of a certain chemical compound), and charting the results over time.  Is the health of the fish or pH improving?

Within any TIC activity, youth find themselves emboldened by opportunities to apply math and science concepts to actual problems, as well as receive the added social benefits of identifying challenges within their environment and taking concerted efforts to solve them.

"I like testing the water to help keep the fish alive," says one of the students in the Blackhawk classroom.

In short, TIC is not just helping to prepare the upcoming wave of engineers and scientists – it is also empowering the next generation of stewards.

To demonstrate the impacts that TIC is having in classrooms around the state, Colorado TU will be following the program in a handful of schools and providing regular updates from the field.

October-November: The Eggs Have Arrived!

At the time of this article (early November), there are currently four classrooms that have eggs in the water and several others that are in the process of setting up their equipment.  Once a site is ready, the rainbow trout eggs are shipped over night from the Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana and arrive at the classroom early the next day.  Teachers have been working closely with their students to carefully place the eggs in the tank and some are even starting to see them hatch now!

Profile: 5th Grade Science Class at Gilpin County School, Blackhawk, CO

Student: Avery Ramsey, 5th Grade

"Our trout program in Gilpin is really cool.  It is amazing to watch them grow.  We learned about each stage in a trout’s life, and now we actually get to see it!"

Teacher: Vanessa Grenader

"Trout in the classroom provides hands on, inquiry-based learning.  As a project based teacher, this program fits into my curriculum perfectly.  I am able to engage the students, and integrate the 5th grade science standards into the program seamlessly.  My students feel like real scientists as they learn.  Now, I can’t imagine a school year without our trout!"


For more information on Trout in the Classroom, you can follow the links below, or contact Dan Omasta ( at Colorado TU.

Colorado TU TIC Program

National Trout in the Classroom Project