Cut It Out: A Trout's Habitat

Designed for the NYC and NYC Watersheds Trout in the Classroom program

Made possible with funds from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in partnership with New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Conceived and written by Chris Carter.

To verify that students understand the anatomy of a healthy stream, purposes of various parts, and vocabulary to describe trout streams.  
To create a decorative (or functional if using insulating foam) backdrop for the trout aquarium.

    The clean cold streams of the Catskill Mountains provide an ideal habitat for trout and a reliable source of drinking water for over 8 million New York City residents.  The health of a stream depends on many factors including vegetation, surrounding land, forested cover and substrate.  New York City's watershed steams and surrounding lands are monitored and taken care of in order to protect the valuable resource of clean, cool and fresh water.
    A healthy stream has many important parts.  First, it has a partially to fully rocky substrate (stream bed), such as gravel or boulders.  As the cool water flows, it meanders (weaves back and forth) over and around this substrate.  The pattern of rocks and gravel makes the water act differently in different parts of the stream.  Sometimes, the water pools in flatter, calmer areas and the water flow slows.  In other areas, the highly variable substrate creates riffles—the areas of bubbly, white water—that help oxygenate the water.  When water flows quickly without interruption by substrate, this is a run.
    A healthy stream also holds and is bordered by many living things.  Aquatic macroinvertebrates, such as insects, mollusks, and crustaceans, live in every level of the water column.  Fish and plants also live within the stream.  Then, the riparian zone—the area next to the stream—must also be full of life.  A healthy riparian zone has trees, shrubs, and/or herbaceous plants, as well as animal wildlife.  This riparian zone (the roots and debris) helps filter surface water runoff and groundwater that might carry sediments and other pollutants that would otherwise enter the stream.

- DVD or Download of the film "The Way of the Trout"
- "Trout are made of Trees" by April Pulley Sayre
- The Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse by John Elderfield
- Watercolor paints, papers and brushes
- scissors and glue
- decorative collage or textured paper
- recycled paper scraps
- large poster paper cut to the size of the aquarium.
- optional: large laminating sheet
- optional: Foam board or other material that can be used to insulate the  back of the trout tank, cut to size.


1st Session
Discuss trout habitat by viewing the film The Way of a Trout.  Let students know that they will create a background the trout aquarium to prepare them for their freshwater home when they are released.  Use the following prompts to begin brainstorming ideas:

~What animals and plants are present?
~What are the trout’s prey?
~What are the predators?

During the film, have students use pencils and colored pencils to draw or diagram some of the components of the habitat they observe.  

2nd Session
Read-aloud Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre

Chart “What might we see in a freshwater and trout habitat?”
Encouraged students to use their knowledge of both the film The Way of a Trout and book Trout Are Made of Trees.

Have each student chose 1 living and 1 non-living element to draw and color in their science notebook for homework. These images are used to create the collage for the trout aquarium background.  Encourage students to also research trout habitats in the library or on the internet.

3rd Session--“Awaking your Watercolor Paper”
Not all students are familiar with techniques artists use when they work with watercolor.  One aspect of the trout collage is the background material and color that can represent the water. Watercolor paper and watercolor paint are natural media to use to represent this.  Give every student the opportunity to try out creating the freshwater background and explain that the class will vote on what colors will ultimately be used to make the class collage.  Model the technique of wetting both sides of the watercolor paper with a brush before painting water patterns on one side of the sheet (also known as “waking up the paper.")  When you wet one side, the paper rolls up toward you like arms stretching, by wetting the other side you will be able to get a flat surface.  Preparing the paper in this way also gives the flowing sensation often seen in watercolor paintings.  Students are then ready to choose the color(s) to imitate the look and feel of a freshwater stream or river.  

4th Session
Using the book The Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse by John Elderfield, describe Matisse’s process of cutting out shapes, in effect “drawing with scissors.” Students practiced cutting out their living and nonliving shapes for our habitat collage using recycled paper. No pencils, only scissors!  Once they have the desired shape, have student chose the collage paper they would like to use to create their living and non-living elements.

5th Session--The Layout
Lay the large watercolor paper out in the middle of a circle.  Students place their pieces where they wanted them. Then, discuss what could be added to fill the scene and choose volunteers to create these elements.  

6th Session
Final Layout Discussion, glue pieces down and installation!  The collage can be attached to a foam board or cardboard to provide extra support and insulation for the trout tank.

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