Students participate in Salmon Stewards Program
This school year, students at Oliver and Powell Butte Elementary Schools participated in the Salmon Stewards program through the National Wildlife Federation in partnership with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Eggs to Fry program (ODFW). The ODFW delivered 200 eggs to each school. Students cared for the fish daily as they developed throughout their life cycle into eyed eggs, then alevin, and finally fry. When the salmon reached their fry-stage, students released them into the Sandy River.
“My 5th grade students loved seeing the fish up close and watching the salmon develop through the life cycles,” said teacher Mrs. Tursi. “We had two tanks out in the hallways, so the whole school actually got to witness and experience the transitions as well.”
During the Salmon Stewards program, Oliver and Powell Butte Elementary Schools assembled Salmon Squads. The Squads were composed of three 5th graders from participating classes. The Salmon Squad students visited elementary classrooms to explain the importance of the program and share what they learned. They were also responsible for recording the water measurements of the tanks– including temperature, pH levels, ammonium levels, oxygen saturation levels– and the number of deaths.
“We checked the temperature and we checked when they evolved from eggs into alevin and fry,” said Marcus, a student who was a part of the Salmon Squad. “It was really cool to do this project together with my friends. We learned that salmon are keystone species.”
Another student on the Salmon Squad, Isaac, added: “It was fun to check on the fish. I learned our salmon were called Chinook Salmon… I think the salmon project was important because learning about fish can be helpful.”
Mrs. Tursi explained that the education around the salmon project was extremely robust. Each of her 5th graders made their own Salmon Life Cycle slideshow called "An Incredible Journey" and wrote about salmon's experiences in first person. They participated in a Japanese fish print activity called Gyotaku, to learn about the anatomy of fish, and played a game called Salmon Survival, which simulated the challenges salmon encounter during their lifetime.
Additionally, students graphed the percentage of salmon that actually spawned in each stage and they discussed what they could do on a personal level to help them on their journey. Students even learned how salmon can benefit the health of the Oregon coast and how salmon DNA can be traced in certain types of trees!
Mrs. Tursi added, “We were pleasantly surprised with how well our students interacted with the project from start to finish. It was incredible to see them interact with the fish tanks, get involved, inquire about salmon, and help ensure that the least amount of lives were lost. Out of 200 eggs, we only lost 10! They learned that a lot goes into taking care of salmon.”
In early January, the salmon reached their fry-stage and students released them into the Sandy River, marking the end of the Program.
Morgan Parks, Oregon Education Manager with the National Wildlife Federation, visited Powell Butte and Oliver Elementary Schools to provide a hands-on activity called “Fred the Fish” to deepen their learning about salmon and their habitat. Students learned about the various obstacles “Fred” may face on his life journey such as jumping through a culvert, toxic waste, or other forms of water pollution.
“By fostering salmon in classroom aquariums, students are transformed into young scientists – experiencing the magic of the salmon life cycle from egg to fry before their very eyes – while learning about the importance of this keystone species to our ecosystems, economy, recreation, and cultures of the Pacific Northwest,” said Parks. “Stewardship starts with getting kids to care about (and love!) salmon and that’s what we hope the Salmon Stewards program does for schools in Oregon.”
Featured below are some photos from the release as well as classroom-related activities.