Siletz Students Raise Coho Salmon
by Pat Whetstone, Siletz School 4th Grade science teacher
Siletz Elementary and Middle School students have been involved in a Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) for more than 6 years. Raising "fish eggs to fry" has been the product of an ongoing environmental educational partnership between Siletz students and Tony Stein of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Daily caring for the fish, as they develop from egg to fry, has been instrumental in developing a sense of stewardship for the environment and living creatures among multi-grade level students. Staff has found that this is a program that catches and stimulates student interest in the "real world." For many students, meals which include salmon, are an important part of their diet and tribal tradition.
Students are excited about sharing what they have learned about raising fish in their classrooms on the PEAS web page. Brady Hogevoll, currently a fourth grade student, has been involved with the STEP program for two years now. "Every time I've got to help raise fish has been different," says Brady. "I've done everything from helping to set up the tank and collecting the river water to help make a good place for the fish to live." Brady and other students willingly do their part to keep the water cold enough and have learned to take accurate water temperatures. They are also very aware of each stage of development and watch for the signs that the fry are at the "button up" stage and are ready for release.
Prior to the release of the last batch of eggs from the Middle School's box, located at nearby Scott Creek, and the Elementary classroom's aquariums, Brady advocated strongly to students in his classroom, to release their fish to a special holding pond, rather than direct deposit into the Siletz River. He was concerned that "predators and other things would make it so that the fish would not have such a good chance at survival." With a true sense of "stewardship," two elementary classrooms and the Middle School, decided to release their fish to the holding pond. "Here," Brady explains, "they will be fed grinded up fish stuff and they will learn how to eat, so that they will do better when they reach the river."
For Stevie Beard, a fourth grade student, raising fish eggs to fry, is a new experience. She has been able to help set up the fish tank that will be home to the Coho Salmon eggs for the next two and a half months. "Our tank is covered with styrofoam to keep the water cold for the fish, but there is a rectangle window that we can see the fish through." Stevie is glad that students had to only use a turkey baster to "suck up about 10 eggs that didn't make it past the eyed stage because it's important to get the eggs that don't develop out before they turn white and fuzzy looking." Students are willing monitors of tank conditions because they want to raise a successful batch of fish. In addition to expressing a sense of stewardship for the environment, Stevie says that, "raising salmon is important to my family because my dad is a commercial fisherman and there needs to be salmon out there for him to catch."
Students will be posting pictures and graphs on the PEAS web site to show what they have learned through involvement with this project. Maybe other schools will become interested in developing educational partnerships with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife after learning about this project on the Internet.
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