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Students learn about life with trout in the classroom

Bob Wagner, left, leads a group of Gene Dillon Elementary students as they learn about fly fishing and release trout at the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.
Larissa Donovan
/
KAXE
Bob Wagner, left, leads a group of Gene Dillon Elementary students as they learn about fly fishing and release trout at the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.

For the past 110 days, students in classrooms across Minnesota learned about ecology and more as they've raised 300 trout from eggs to fingerlings.

PINEWOOD — Students from Northern Minnesota classrooms are releasing hundreds of class pets into the Clearwater River this month.

The class pets are Trout in the Classroom projects for students at Gene Dillon Elementary, Schoolcraft Learning Community and Cass Lake-Bena Schools.

These classes are releasing the trout northwest of Bemidji on the Clearwater River. There’s a four-mile stretch in this area that is spring fed, which means it’s cold enough for the young fish, according to local Trouts Unlimited board member Bob Wagner.

A Gene Dillon Elementary student holds up some young fingerlings as his class prepares to release trout at the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.
Larissa Donovan
/
KAXE
A Gene Dillon Elementary student holds up some young fingerlings as his class prepares to release trout at the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.

"The really important thing is what they've learned for 110 days in the classroom... The whole life cycle. Most kids, most adults, have never seen a [trout] egg. All of a sudden, it develops a little nose, then a tail, then it starts wiggling.... then it turns into a beautiful little colored trout,” Wagner said.

Students from 4th through 12th grade have opportunities across Minnesota to learn about water chemistry, nitrogen cycles, ecology and more through the Trouts in the Classroom program, Wagner said.

Young trout raised by a classroom at Gene Dillon Elementary are stored in a cooler ahead of their release into the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.
Larissa Donovan
/
KAXE
Young trout raised by a classroom at Gene Dillon Elementary are stored in a cooler ahead of their release into the Clearwater River on May 9, 2024.

"There is every type of curriculum, art, music, literature. You can all fit it into this aquarium and they have to take care of the fish. They have to feed the fish. They understand that if the chiller stops in the aquarium, the fish are going to die, so they really get invested and connected to these fish,” Wagner said.

Trout in the Classroom began in Bemidji 17 years ago, and with grant funding, it has spread to classrooms across the state. More than 20 trout release days are planned in Minnesota this month, with each classroom hosting about 300 trout.

Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.