SALT LAKE CITY — Fourth-grade teacher Jill Buchsbaum and her class watched eagerly as gooey red trout eggs were dropped into a large tank in their classroom.
Buchsbaum said the children in her class at Uintah Elementary School have been excited for the fish egg day since they learned they would be participating in October.
Through watching the eggs, kids learn not simply about the ecosystems, but also about responsibility, chemistry and life cycles.
"It's like bringing nature to the classroom. A lot of kids will never go and see this stuff … so it gives them a chance to connect with wildlife," said Brett Prettyman, intermountain communications director for Trout Unlimited.
The rainbow trout eggs, which were delivered to 47 Utah classrooms this year, are part of a national program called Trout in the classroom hosted by Trout Unlimited. Any grade can participate, but the curriculum is designed specifically for the fourth grade.
Volunteers from various chapters of Trout Unlimited, who will also serve as liaisons and help the teachers throughout the program, picked up the eggs provided by the Utah Division of Wildlife and brought them to schools Tuesday, according to Prettyman.
The children in Buchsbaum's class had lots of questions about the eggs for Prettyman and Chris Crockett from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, who brought the fish. They asked about when the eggs will hatch, what to do with any dead eggs, and whether the fish will eat each other and how to deal with that.
"Don't let it scare you if you lose a few along the way, it's just a natural part of the process," said Crockett. He explained although in the fish hatcheries the trout typically have a 90 percent survival rate, in this smaller tank organizers would be proud of a 25 or 30 percent survival rate.
"Sometimes we lose whole tanks because there's something that happens. The most common thing that happens is when power goes out at school on weekends, and then they come back to school and there's one fish alive," said Prettyman, "It is sad, but this is what happens in nature too."
Buchsbaum said this is her first time using the trout in her classroom.
"I'm a little nervous, but I think everything should go well," she said.Comment on this story
Although rainbow trout are not native to Utah like the cutthroat trout, they are the most stocked fish in Utah and have a higher survival rate in hatcheries. Prettyman said the program would like to use a native fish, but there are stipulations which prevent using cutthroat trout.
The children in participating classrooms will be responsible to check on the fish a few times each day, test the water for chemicals and make sure the tank stays at the right temperature.
"The eggs are easy, now we've given them to you to do the hard part, which is to raise them up, so I want to thank you for taking this on to help us out," said Crockett.