Once I Was a Baby Trout -- the Trout Life Cycle Song

designed for the NYC and NYC Watersheds Trout in the Classroom program
conceived and written by Rochelle Gandour, former NY TIC coordinator

Objective:
    To help students understand the early part of the life cycle of trout, learn trout vocabulary, and forge a deeper connection with their trout as they grow.

Background: 
    The mountainous landscape of the Catskills provides wonderful habitat for delicate and sensitive trout to grow, breed and lay eggs and continue their life cycle.  The streams are cool and clean, have plenty of forested shade and gravel covered bottoms.   By observing the populations of trout in the Catskills scientists can determine the health of the streams.  

    Trout have a reproductive strategy that’s very different from what humans do.  Whereas humans bear a small number of children at a time (often just one), and then care for the child for years, trout lay thousands of eggs each and do not care for their offspring.  The way it often works, adult trout just replace themselves.  For every thousand eggs laid, one hundred hatch, ten make it to juvenile age, and one becomes a reproducing adult.

    Trout lay their eggs in a nest of gravel called a redd.  First, the female digs a depression in the stream bottom with her tail, and then lays her unfertilized eggs.  The male trout follows by covering the eggs with his milt, or sperm.  The female then gently covers the eggs with a thin layer of protective gravel.  These early, undeveloped eggs are known as “green eggs.”  As the eggs develop, two eyespots become visible within the egg walls—now the eggs are “eyed eggs.”  When the trout hatch, their translucent egg shell floats away, but the trout maintain a very large yolk sac on their bellies.  This yolk is all the trout’s nourishment while it develops for the next few weeks.  The sac slowly shrinks, and as the trout’s mouth develops, they also develop an instinct for hunting.  Anything that is animal (trout are carnivores) and that will fit in their mouths is fair game.  Most often, trout eat insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, but they have also been known to eat small mammals and other fish.  Young fish (and some species of adult trout) maintain dark vertical ovals on their sides which act as camouflage, helping the trout hide from predators among the plants and rocks of the stream bed.

Materials:
copies of the lyrics for all participants, and it’s nice to have a guitar-playing adult to help keep everyone in key  

Procedure:

  1. "Once I Was a Baby Trout" is sung to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
  2. You can sing this song with lyrics, or as a call-and-response.  Sometimes, at first, it’s best to just have the kids sing the repetitive parts of the song—those parts feature the most interesting vocabulary, anyway.
  3. After the children know the song, or even before, it is excellent to choreograph it, as well.  Ask children to act each verse out, and see what they come up with.  This song can also be taught directly with choreography.

Wrap-up:
Once you’ve all learned it, you can have the students draw an illustration of this song’s content on a page with just the lyrics.  Another choice would be to have the students write their own trout song to their favorite tune.  This song is also great for assemblies and school performances.

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