Something fishy is going on at Pioneer
Kindergartner Benjamin Mead peered intently at the fish tank, his eyes just inches from the glass. Suddenly he exclaimed, “I see a tail!”
Other children bent close for their own look at the tiny Chinook salmon. Hatched from eggs in January, the lifeforms known as alevins now consist of a red food sac and not much body. But there they were, huddled together in a corner of the tank with children straining for a glimpse.
It’s the first year Pioneer Elementary School has participated in Salmon in the Classroom. The program is funded by Grant PUD, and brought 200 eggs to Pioneer for the library tank. Kindergarten teacher Sara Hausken said the sacs will disappear in a couple weeks and students will start feeding what will then be called fry. The fish will be released into the Columbia River in late April or early May.
Before getting a look at the salmon’s latest progress last Thursday, children sat on the floor for some paperwork. They recorded the date, water temperature and how many salmon remained in the tank — 181 survived as of last week.
Hausken prompted the students before they took turns gazing into the tank.
“Check to see if they’re swimming faster or slower or if they’re just hanging out,” she said. “That’s what we’re looking for today.”
The written lesson included math, science and writing.
“And we’re reading about salmon,” Hausken said. “We chose to keep our tank in the school library so every student in the school could participate in this amazing experience.”
Principal Nik Bergman said the salmon have been a hit with most students, not just those in kindergarten. In fact, he joked there have been cases of surreptitious entry into the library for unauthorized viewing.
“When kids are coming in from recess to see if there are new hatches, you know it’s an engaging opportunity,” Bergman said.
Librarian Shana Moloso contributed to the lessons by borrowing and displaying a mounted steelhead – the record Washington state winter steelhead caught in 1980 by her uncle, Gene Maygra.
Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, but rainbow are freshwater only, while steelhead go to sea.
“I just wanted to let the kids see how big they get,” Moloso said.
Another highlight of the salmon study comes in March, when a representative from the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program will visit to make a presentation to the Pioneer kindergartners.
— By Steve Kadel, firstname.lastname@example.org