Salmon in the Classroom Program Another Year Strong

This week, The Salmon Center will begin its Salmon in the Classroom program! This WDFW School Cooperative Program provides salmon eggs to classrooms within Washington State to be reared in a classroom aquarium. For Hood Canal, this means that roughly 20,000 eyed fall chum eggs from George Adams hatchery will be making their way to Sandhill and Belfair Elementary schools to be raised by six 3rd and 4th grade classes, totaling approximately 180 students.

Juvenile fall chum swim around an aquarium at Belfair Elementary.
Juvenile fall chum swim around an aquarium at Belfair Elementary.

Not all sponsors who apply will get fall chum for their classrooms—different hatcheries within the state provide different salmon species, with availability ranging between late fall to early winter for approved applicants. This program provides access to species and ecosystem science learning, by allowing students to fully understand the lifecycle of salmon as a crucial keystone species, and affording them the opportunity to monitor water quality within their habitat over the three month program span.

Salmon Center staff Seth and Michelle, with AmeriCorps intern Lauren, will be giving monthly presentations to students regarding salmon lifecycle, habitat, and conservation methods. This program has been ongoing for over two decades, and has been a powerful learning tool. We appreciate this program for its effectiveness in educating youth about salmon biology in an engaging and sensory way. It allows students to explore complex concepts, such as pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen—environmental concepts that may be otherwise difficult to effectively and accessibly convey to young students; concepts which imply the fragile balance of such environments. Students will watch their salmon hatch, develop from alevin, to fry, and finally, to parr, before they will join us in April’s big release event into the Union River Estuary. The Salmon Center’s restoration of the Union River Estuary in 2013, in partnership with WDFW, has provided 31 acres of restored habitat which will be accessible to the released juvenile salmon.  Releasing the fish opens up discussion regarding the importance of human intervention in restoring local salmon populations and the maintenance of clean habitat for their survival.

Students release their fall chum fry into Sweetwater Creek in Belfair.
Students release their fall chum fry into Sweetwater Creek in Belfair.

The Salmon Center has personalized the program further with an annual art contest, dubbed “Soul Salmon.” This contest inspires artistic creativity, through the combination of Native American salmon folklore and the opportunity to design a salmon that exemplifies the year’s chosen theme. The winner of the contest will be announced in May, and have the opportunity to transform our 8 foot Soul Salmon sculpture into their winning vision!

All in all, the program is a fantastic learning opportunity for students, and their families, who will without doubt be bombarded with information and excitement from their children. To read more about the Salmon in the Classroom program, check out this link.

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