BEMIDJI -- Students at Gene Dillon Elementary began their five-month journey of raising rainbow trout on Thursday morning.

The students in the fifth-grade classes of Jeff Wade, Brianna Nohre and Alison Tisdell, along with Joseph Adams fourth-grade class are participating in this year’s installment of the Trout in the Classroom project, with each class receiving around 300 rainbow trout eggs.

Trout in the Classroom is an educational program organized by school staff, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve coldwater fisheries and watersheds.

At the end of the school year, the students will release the fish into the Clearwater River, one of the trout streams in the Bemidji area.

“Hopefully the fish will go on to thrive in the stream after we release them,” Tony Standera, a Bemidji area fisheries specialist with the DNR, said to the fourth-grade class.

The children will care for the fish with the help of their teachers. Standera will check in on each classroom every few weeks to help monitor their progress and teach the children more about various things related to the project.

Every week throughout the semester two students in each class will be chosen as “trout technicians” and will be assigned the duty of monitoring and tracking the water quality in their classroom tank.

This week, the trout technicians in Joseph Adams' fourth-grade class were Heaton Brodina and Colton Black, which meant they had the exciting job of pouring the trout eggs into their classroom tank.

Standera explained that the eggs are poured into a small net within the tank until they get larger, so they don’t get sucked through the tank filter or fall between the cracks in the rocks at the bottom of the tank.

“You are one of just a few classes in northern Minnesota that have the opportunity to participate in this cool program,” Standera said to the group of inquisitive fourth-graders.

Standera said there are now a total of 44 classes in Minnesota who are part of the Trout in the Classroom project. This is Bemidji Area Schools' 13th year participating in the program.

“There were not many types of hands-on projects like this when I went to school,” Standera said to the children. “I think you all are really fortunate to have this kind of opportunity.”