Physiology Box

Raising Trout - Standards

Grade 6
Ecology (Life Sciences)
5. Organisms in ecosystems exchange energy and nutrients among themselves and with the environment. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis and then from organism to organism through food webs.

Raising Trout - Procedure

To start a Trout in the Classroom program at your school, contact your state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife or find a local chapter of Trout Unlimited. These agencies sponsor training programs for teachers to show them how to set up an aquarium, get eggs, raise the fry, and release them into designated ecosystems. For specific resources, see the list of selected programs below:

Raising Trout - Background

Salmon alevins: Just hatched salmon with yolk sacs. Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Salmon alevins: Just hatched salmon with yolk sacs. Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Teacher Background
Raising trout provide a fabulous way to introduce students to the life cycle and physiological requirements of other species. Moreover, you can use these fish to teach students about threatened and endangered species.

Raising Trout - Logistics

30 min set up tank
1 week for tank to equilibrate
1 month (approximately) between fertilization and hatching
2-3 weeks from hatching to release
Time required for the trout release field trip varies depending on the distance from your school and desired activities at the release site.

The raising and care of the fry takes place as a whole class. During the trout release field trip, students may collect data in groups of 4 students.

Project - Raising Trout

Raising trout from eggs to fry in the classroom is a fabulous way for students to observe and study the life cycle of vertebrates and simultaneously learn about threatened species in local watersheds. Many states have programs where teachers and students raise trout in their classrooms in partnership with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for later release into a designated lake, creek or river. Described here is information for teachers on how to partner with state agencies, fish hatcheries, and local fly-fisher groups to raise rainbow trout in the classroom. A worksheet for the trout release field trip is provided. Best of all, many Trout in the Classroom Programs are fully supported by local fly-fisher groups and the California Department of Fish and Game (such as the California program that I participated in), and thus there is no materials cost to the teacher beyond the costs of organizing the trout release field trip at the end of the project.

Raising Plants - Sources and Standards

For information on Wisconsin Fast Plants, see:

  • The Fast Plants website with just about everything you ever wanted to know about Fast Plants including growing tips, activities and more.
  • Wisconsin Fast Plants Manual (Carolina Biological catalog #15-8950, $28)


Raising Plants - Experiment Ideas

Experiment Ideas
See activity ideas on the Wisconsin Fast Plant website for detailed information.

  1. Life Cycle – Raise Fast Plants from seed to seed. At each stage of the life cycle, discuss and study what the plant is doing. Discuss seeds, germination, growth, flowering, pollination, fruiting, and seed dispersal. Have students draw a life cycle diagram, adding a labeled picture of their plant at each stage of the life cycle. See the Fast Plants Life Cycle activity guide for a great diagram of the life cycle and information about the plants at each stage of life.
  2. Plant Traits – Examine the variation in plant traits. Pool the observations students made during the growth and flowering phases of the plant life cycle. Examine and graph the population data to determine whether there is a bell curve distribution of traits such as plant height. See the Growth, Development, and Flowering activity guide and the Getting a Handle on Variation activity guide for two different ways to conduct a study of plant traits and variation in a population.
  3. Artificial Selection - Sponsor an artificial selection program for hairiness (or height) in Fast Plants. Breed Fast Plants over several generations, always selecting either the most hairy or the least hairy plants to cross fertilize. For each generation, carefully quantify the number of hairs on each individual and construct a histogram showing data for the whole population. See the Hairy's Inheritance: Selection, Variation, and Inheritance activity guide for detailed information.
  4. Ecology – Experiment with environmental variables - salinity of the water, light conditions, nutrient supply, population density, pollution, or other factors – and monitor differences in plant growth and development. See any of the activities under Ecology, Environment, and Interactions Between Abiotic and Biotic Factors for detailed lesson plans.
  5. Coevolution – Investigate the coevolution of insects and flowering plants. Study the thorax of a bee under a dissecting microscope or strong magnifying glass. Look at the shape of the hairs on the bee’s body and its relationship to pollen. See the Flowering and Pollination - Pollination Biology activity guide for detailed information. Alternatively, raise Fast Plants and butterflies together in the same light box, studying their symbiotic relationship. See Brassica butterfly activities and rearing guide on the Wisconsin Fast Plant website.

Raising Plants - Procedures

To build a light box:
See the light box assembly directions on the Wisconsin Fast Plant website for detailed information.

  1. Distribute boxes, single socket electrical cords, circular light bulb and light box building kits to each group.
  2. Have students set their box on the table with one of the small, square ends down. That is now the bottom of the box.
  3. Use the box cutter to cut a one inch diameter hole in the top of the box. The screw end of the circular light bulb should just squeeze into the hole.
  4. Use the box cutter to cut long rectangular slits (4x14 cm) in the sides and of the box, near the top edge. These are vents to prevent your plants from overheating.
  5. Line the inside of the box with aluminum foil. Use glue to glue the foil securely to all sides, and the top and bottom of the box. Make sure you leave the top hole and vent slit open.
  6. Working from the inside of the box, insert the circular light bulb through the top hole.
  7. While 1 person holds the light bulb, a second person should screw the light socket onto the light bulb.
  8. Make an aluminum foil curtain for the front of the box. The curtain should completely cover the opening. Tape the curtain to the top of the box and reinforce the sides if desired with clear tape.
  9. Optional: Cut pieces of window screen material to cover the vent holes from the outside. Use duct tape to secure them in place.

Raising Plants - Getting Ready

Getting Ready

  1. Build your own light box and terraqua column as an example to show the students.
  2. Collect enough banker boxes or copy paper boxes for your group.
  3. Create light box building kits with scissors, a box cutter, aluminum foil, glue and scotch tape.
  4. You may want to print out a copy of the light box building instructions as an overhead or make enough copies for each group to have one.
  5. See getting ready steps in the Terraqua Column activity for how to set up for terraqua column construction.

Raising Plants - Background

Teacher Background
Wisconsin Fast Plants (Brassica rapa) are an extraordinary resource for teachers since they have been selected for over 30 years for traits that make them ideal model organisms for the classroom. They thrive under fluorescent lighting, need very little soil, complete their life cycle in about a month, and take up very little space. Moreover, for under $50, a teacher can set up a classroom greenhouse and growing system for 32 students (2 light boxes and 18 terraqua columns growing 4 plants each).