In February, Lower School science teacher Chantal Detlefs received 200 salmon eggs from the Connecticut River Salmon Association. The organization has been working with schools through its program “Salmon in Schools” to re-establish the endangered species in the state's major river. On May 8, they traveled an hour and a half north to the Salmon River State Forest in East Hampton, Conn where they carefully released baby salmon— or fry—into the river’s tributary.
The salmon release was the final step in a multi-month project of studying salmon. Every day for approximately three months, the children took turns measuring the water temperature and charted the daily growth of the eggs, as they became alevin (sacs) and then fry. They learned about the salmon’s upstream anadromous (fresh and salt water) migration pattern to the North Atlantic, observed salmon scales under the microscope, and studied the effect of dams on salmon population.
“The goal was to show them an example of a local endangered species,” says Ms. Detlefs who also teaches students about the reintroduction of wolves at Yellowstone as part of a unit on ecology. “They are able to observe closely, engage in real-time research and learn about environmental issues.”
In addition to releasing the salmon, students searched for small invertebrates (salmon food) in the river. They learned about the health of the rivers, did a scavenger hunt and played a “predator-prey” game.
“Not a lot of people get to release an endangered species into nature,” said fourth grader Graham Gale. “I felt like I was helping the world.”
The students also had time for reflective writing at the end of their visit. Please see a couple of examples below.
I felt a little queasy,
my gills a little wheezy.
My name is Spirit
and I’m a salmon that can bare it.
I got released today,
I’m with my fam, so yay.
“Swim, Spirit, Swim!” Exclaimed Julia!
She let me swim with all my heart,
I was a little scared at the start.
Of course, I had my ups and downs,
I always was in mounds.
I escape every net and trap,
I know I’m worthy of that.
Today I found out that there are different kinds of animals and they live in different water, like good and bad water. When I released the salmon, I thought that they would swim away, right away, but what ended up happening was that they swam out of the bowl and kind of stayed in one spot. I was very surprised because when they swam out of the bowl, they looked really excited, but when they got out they looked really calm. Doing all the stations really helped me learn more about Salmon. Plus they were really fun, especially the salmon and minnows game.