I’m a Survivor! Trout Ecosystem Case Study


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School(s): South Hill and Beverly J. Martin
Grade(s): 4th grade
Subject(s): Reading, Writing, Science, Art
Year (s): 2014-2015

Essential Questions

How do the physical characteristics of an organism impact its survival?
How do organisms depend on one another and the environment for survival?
Why should we minimize our human impact on the environment?
Case Study At A Glance

Fourth-grade students engaged in an interdisciplinary study of trout and their adaptations, the local environment, landscape, flora and fauna to gain a deeper insight into the function of natural systems and relationships between them. Students investigated and analyzed internal and external structures that serve functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction. The study culminated in a project that enriched science learning across grade levels in the SH and BJM elementary schools, an information sharing session and book for our first-grade buddies. This case study of trout set the base for a second, broader study of other stream inhabitants.

Standards Addressed/Long Term Learning Targets

  • Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structure that  function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. (4-LS1-1)
  • Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections...include ...illustrations to aid comprehension. (W.4.2a)
  • Use precise language and  domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic. (W.4.2d)
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose and audience. (W.4.4)
  • Use a model to describe that animals’ function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. (4-LS1-2)
  • Information Processing: Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be processed by the animal’s brain.  Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions. (LS1-D)


Bill Foster, The Floating Classroom/Trout Unlimited
Camille Doucet, Artist
Matt Sacco, Cayuga Nature Center

Service Learning

Reading/Sharing with first-grade buddies at South Hill

Field Work

Conducted at Six Mile Creek and Lower Buttermilk Falls State Park


Anchor Texts

Trout by Cherie Winner
Trout are Made of Trees by April Sayre 


Other Suggested Texts/Resources

Reading A-Z:  Salmon a Link in the Food Chain, Leap, A Salmon Story, and Saving the Salmon (three differentiated texts, RAZ levels K, Q, X)

Brown Trout Life Cycle:  http://www.wildtrout.org/content/trout-lifecycle

Video of Trout hatching: https://vimeo.com/56922276

National Geographic intro article:  http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/rainbow-trout/

Trout facts: question and answer format:  http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Oncorhynchus_mykiss/

Trout website with interactive diagram of internal and external structures, info on different trout species:  http://www.streamexplorers.org/fish-facts/internal-anatomy

Wild Kratts (PBS) (“Bass Class” episode) http://www.fs.fed.us/outdoors/naturewatch/implementation/Curricula/Salmon-Curriculum.PDF