Sunday, February 23, 2020
Feb. 23, 2020

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Students gain knowledge as they release salmon into creek

Program allows Hockinson youngsters to learn about fish, environmental stewardship

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center

How it works: Clark County classrooms care for 250 salmon eggs, oversee then as they hatch and release them into Clark County streams.

Goal: To engage students, parents and community in environmental stewardship by connecting them with salmon and increasing awareness of salmon’s unique life cycle and habitat requirements.

Created in 1991 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Funded by Clark Public Utilities; Stream Team volunteers assist Columbia Springs with salmon releases.

To participate, contact 360-882-0936 or sitc@columbiasprings.org

Learn more at www.columbiasprings.org/programs/salmon-in-the-classroom

BATTLE GROUND — Squatting on the bank of Gravel Point Creek, Andrew Swatosh, 10, released a scoop of tiny coho into the tributary of Salmon Creek.

Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center

How it works: Clark County classrooms care for 250 salmon eggs, oversee then as they hatch and release them into Clark County streams.

Goal: To engage students, parents and community in environmental stewardship by connecting them with salmon and increasing awareness of salmon's unique life cycle and habitat requirements.

Created in 1991 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Funded by Clark Public Utilities; Stream Team volunteers assist Columbia Springs with salmon releases.

To participate, contact 360-882-0936 or sitc@columbiasprings.org

Learn more at www.columbiasprings.org/programs/salmon-in-the-classroom

Landowner Jim Orander waded into the creek, picked up another wooden trough squirming with salmon fry and set it down at the water’s edge. Each of Andrew’s fourth-grade classmates from Hockinson Heights Elementary took a turn releasing salmon. In all, almost 10,000 of Orander’s coho fry were released into the stream Thursday morning.

It was part of the Salmon in the Classroom program offered by the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center. About 50 Clark County schools participate in the program, which teaches environmental stewardship as students learn about salmon. There is no cost for schools to participate in the program funded by Clark Public Utilities. Columbia Springs gets the salmon eggs from the Lewis River Hatchery in Woodland.

For 16 years, Jim and Barb Orander have participated by hatching salmon eggs, raising salmon fry and then inviting local schoolchildren to release them into the creek on their property east of Battle Ground. The Oranders are among a handful of Clark County homeowners who serve as remote site incubators for the program.

The fourth-graders at Hockinson Heights Elementary received 250 salmon eggs from Columbia Springs. As they care for the young fish, they are learning about salmon. They will release their fry later this spring. Only two of their eggs didn’t hatch.

A salmon typically lays 5,000 eggs, but only two to three salmon survive to adulthood, said Katie Woollven, who coordinates the Salmon in the Classroom program at Columbia Springs and watched the students having fun while learning.

“They’re learning about what kinds of things live in a healthy stream,” said Renee Fern, who teaches fourth grade at Hockinson Heights Elementary and has taught the Salmon in the Classroom program for 12 years. “They take that connection to the world. My former students come back to tell me, ‘I remember when we went to the Oranders and released those salmon.'”

Students don’t return and share fond memories of learning multiplication tables, but they do remember the salmon, she said.

After the students scooped salmon into the creek Thursday, there was still plenty of fun to be had. With nets and turkey basters, students scooped aquatic macroinvertebrates from tubs of water to see what kind of creatures live in a healthy stream.

“We found a dragonfly!” one girl said excitedly.

“We got an alderfly! Look!” said a boy.

“A caddisfly!” announced another student.

All along the bank, students shouted out the names of the macroinvertebrates they’d found. Although most of the tubs of water had been provided by Columbia Springs, some had been collected from Gravel Point Creek.

Finding species intolerant to pollutants, such as caddisfly, is one indicator that the water is fairly healthy, said Stefanie Aschmann, a Columbia Springs volunteer.

Next, students tried surviving the salmon obstacle course. Aiden Forsi, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Clark Public Utilities’ Stream Team, explained that the students would be salmon trying to survive against four threats. First, they had to “swim” past a dangerous dam turbine, which was portrayed by two adults twirling a long jump rope. If they survived that ordeal, they had to make it past an eagle, a fisherman and a growling bear — who were trying to catch the salmon. The predators were played by eager students. Laughing, children ran through the obstacle course.

Afterward, the students, teachers and volunteers gathered on the Oranders’ patio for cookies. They chattered excitedly about what they’d learned on the banks of Gravel Point Creek.

“It’s hard to be a salmon because you can get eaten by eagles and bears,” said Indy McBride.

“They lay thousands of eggs, but only two or three survive,” said Chris Stucki.

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