Swim away little fish
Boones Ferry Primary third-graders stood on a dock and took turns passing styrofoam cups filled with baby salmon down the line of students until the last hands touched the cup and released the fish into the Willamette River.
Eight-year-old Caleb Shank's favorite part? "Probably seeing them swim away," Caleb said. "Seeing how they happily swim in the water and have so much space."
Since October, Cindy Krieg's class — along with three other third-grade classes — have had a tank of salmon, which started out just as eggs, in the community space outside of their classrooms. Students were able to learn about and observe the salmon's life cycle before taking turns releasing the fry — salmon in their third stage of life — into the river Thursday, Dec. 14.
"It's kind of neat for them to see that this is where they go and this is how they are going to continue their life cycle," Krieg said.
But this year, out of about 250 eggs the third-grade classes received, many died.
"We have never had so many die at their second stage of their life cycle. We think it had to do with the cloudy water (in the tank)," Krieg said. "We are unsure why this happened, but it hasn't happened before. It is all just part of the cycle of life."
Even so, retired Portland Public Schools science teacher Susan Schenk allowed the classes to walk from school to her home
to release the salmon wfrom her dock in Wilsonville.
"I just think its a very exciting project — we love the river ourselves," Schenk said. "This way, over 100 kids get to actually put their hand into the river and recognize the resource that's here."
As part of the common core, Krieg said students learn about organisms and their life cycles, and said salmon provide a good example.
Earlier in the year, third-graders were able to take a field trip to Bonneville Dam where the classes observed how the salmon swam up the fish ladders to spawn.
But because of the ash and fire from the Eagle Creek Fire, students weren't able to see as much.
"They get to see how the salmon have to fight their way to go back to where they want to spawn so they love it; it's a way for them to see how an organism starts from an egg and it moves on to its different stages...and how the environment affects them," Krieg said. "They saw that with the problem of the fire and they learned the different hazards or threats to the salmon, whether it be that the water gets too warm or if there's a bear or predators out there."
Aside from observing the salmon in the tank during class, students were also able to become experts in the different stages of the salmon's life cycle. They split up into groups and researched information to create posters to share with the class.
"I think this is a thing that makes it really interesting for them because they get hands-on and they can teach; they love teaching others about what they know," Krieg said. "It's a good way to experience the life cycle of an animal. They can see so many parts of it and we try to use that to have them relate it to other things in life: how the life cycle is of different animals and people."