Third grade teacher Ashley Martinez at Burchfield Elementary in Colusa has given her students a unique learning experience. Martinez’s class has been raising trout in their classroom. 

There are 35 steelhead trout, currently in the tiny alevin stage. 

These trout have only ever known the inside of Martinez’s classroom as their home. Recently hatched, the students have not only been getting a lesson in science but in many other subjects, as well.

“It has been just amazing to watch these kids, and the literature that they’re trying to read, because they want to read about these fish,” Martinez explained. 

Students keep daily logs of temperature in the aquariaum. Martinez said there is a rigorous process of sterilization and keeping the aquarium in conditions that perfectly mimic the river, all of which are learning opportunities. They have also presented to the principal what they learned about invasive species. 

“They think we’re predators,” Perla Olazo, 9, pointed out because the tiny creatures skitter behind river rocks in the tank. 

Martinez attended a training through Fish and Game prior to starting the project. Then the living science lesson was presented to the class by Greg and Kathleen Payne, organizers through the California Aquatics Education Program. The Paynes delivered fertilized eggs to the classroom as they have been doing throughout various counties for over 20 years.

Martinez does not have to borrow equipment such as a tank and chiller because of funding through the Colusa Indian Community Council, who provided this opportunity along with salmon in November. 

“We are super grateful to the [Indian Community]; they gave me class funding to buy all our own equipment,” Martinez said. 

Martinez reports that the feedback from parents has been positive, and students are enthusiastic. 

“I love that the kids are banging on the door every morning because they want to come in, they want to see what we’re doing,” she said.

Martinez previously raised chickens in the class, and the hands-on learning has been getting attention from other students. She is planning on working with interested teachers.

“I’ve put out the resources with my grade level, so if other people wanted to do it on the times that we’re not doing it, because some people can do salmon in November, and February is steelhead, and we can trade.” 

For those interested, information on Fish in the Classroom Program is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/CAEP/R2.

The next milestone the students will be directed to note will be the fry stage of development. Then later this month, Martinez will release the scaly friends into the Feather River. While the trout swim off into the sunset, Martinez’s students will not be loosing a class pet but gaining a wealth of knowledge. ■