Field Notes

June 11, 2018

Classroom Lake Experience Program Aids Elementary Teachers

At the start of the 2017-18 school year, nearly 30, 40-gallon aquariums were taken to classrooms and reception areas in elementary schools throughout Kosciusko County! Now, as the school year comes to a close, the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams is offering an up-close look at the Classroom Lake Experience program.

Classroom Lake Experience helps enhance an elementary classroom’s existing schedule. Lesson plans are designed around specific standards and age-appropriate objectives, but they are capable of much more than meeting a standard. “Our hope is to be nothing but a blessing to teachers,” said Lexi Miller, a Grace College student studying life science education. “We create our lesson plans to provide an interesting and fun perspective on environmental science.”

Cheryl Huff, a teacher at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School, had an aquarium in her classroom for the 2017-18 school year. “The fish provided a great experience for my classes this year,” she said. “The lesson on pH was also great because students were able to use that knowledge and apply it to the hydroponic grow towers that they are also taking care of this school year.”

The classroom aquariums usually hold five to eight native fish, a combination of red ear sunfish, smallmouth bass, gold shiners, perch and channel catfish. Throughout the school year, elementary students observe the habitats of the fish and learn about related topics. Since the fish are ones found in lakes throughout Kosciusko County, the students are also gaining first-hand knowledge about what local fish like to eat and how they prefer to live.

Emily Barge is a second-year student at Grace College in her third year working on the education team at the Lilly Center. “I love using the Classroom Lake Experience tank as an educational tool,” said Barge. In fact, students are enabled to take what they learn and apply it to their interaction with the lakes. “It’s more than an aquarium of classroom pets. Our plans provide fun, hands-on lessons that teach students how to be stewards of nature,” Barge explained.

Want to support this program? You can sponsor a classroom aquarium for the 2018-19 school year! Contact Caitlin Yoder, education coordinator at the Lilly Center, at Or, visit to get involved.