By Penny Brennan, Teacher

I teach first grade and GATE students at a Title 1 school in San Jose. The STEP program has enabled me to really get through to my students that they are the custodians of their planet. STEP encourages students to develop a sense of personal responsibility. My first grade students are keenly aware that the Steelhead Trout eggs need a special environment in order to survive.

All students have promised to check the temperature of the aquarium daily to ensure that it remains optimum for the eggs and my students understand that the eggs must be covered to simulate the stream environment they came from. My students learned a lot about the external parts of a fish when Mrs. and Miss Fitch came to class one afternoon to teach them the Japanese art of fishprinting.

I learned that my students can be excellent listeners when they are truly involved and interested in a project. Every single student was absorbed in touching parts of the fish before printing it on tissue paper. All students wanted to take their prints home that same day because they were so excited to relate what they had just learned to their parents.

The best part of the STEP program is that it encourages students to take ownership. Students learn that they need to work cooperatively in order for something to be successful. For example, students bickered over putting the Steelhead Trout puzzle together but they stuck at it until it was finished. The activities in the Teacher Binder are extremely motivational and absorbing. My students are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the eggs and cannot wait to start observing the development of the trout.