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Salmon savvy: Preschoolers learn about salmon, up close

Photos by Megan Stephenson and Kipp Robertson

POULSBO — Reece Corbin, 4, gently held a wriggling baby salmon in his hand, freshly caught from Dogfish Creek, before it was slipped back into the water to continue on its journey.

Reece said his favorite part of the experience was the water, because he got to wear his rainboots that day.

Reece was with his Martha & Mary KIDS preschool class, learning about streams, bugs and, of course, fish, on a field trip Wednesday at the south fork of Dogfish Creek at Centennial Park.

This is a fragile time in the salmonids’ lives, and local biologist and children’s book author Ron Hirschi wants to instill a sense of environmental stewardship in our youth. He is currently writing a book for the Martha & Mary preschoolers about local streams.

“To help call attention to protecting [the streams] and restoring at least part of their natural legacy, we might do like the kids did today and plant wildflowers along the banks and simply get to know who lives in the streams,” Hirschi said via email.

On Wednesday, the children ran around in their rainboots and raincoats, reveling in the break from the rain but splashing in the stream nonetheless. Hirschi caught coho salmon and cutthroat trout in a net so the children could get a closeup look at the fish. He had read his other books to the children before this trip, about what keeps a stream healthy — the bugs that eat the leaves that fall from the trees, and the fish that eat the bugs. Hirschi said the children make the connection after seeing salmon in their natural habitat for the first time.

The 20 or so children stood impatiently on the stream bank, clamoring to hold a fish. They grew silent when holding the salmon, then returned to running around gleefully.

Hirschi said he loves the excitement.

“We’re introducing them to something that’s right in their own home ... that most adults don’t know is here,” he said.

Hirschi often reads his books at Liberty Bay Books on Front Street. More information at www.libertybaybooks.com and www.ronhirschi.com.

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