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Students release fry into natural environment this week
This week, students across Kitsap County said goodbye to salmon they've been raising for the last few months in classroom tanks.
As part of the "Salmon in the Classroom" program through the Clear Creek Trail Task Force, various classrooms raised salmon eggs in tanks until the fish could be released into streams as fry.
On Thursday, Clear Creek Elementary fourth graders went in pairs with kindergarten buddies to release their salmon into the stream. Some named their fish as they let them go off into the clear, babbling creek. Students chose names like "Flower" and "Lola" before releasing the wiggling chum salmon.
"They get personally attached," said fourth grade math and science teacher Barbara Bromley. She said some of her students wanted to keep the fish just a little bit longer to watch them grow.
While the kindergarten students learned a few things about salmon, Bromley's students have spent almost the full year studying the life cycle and habits of salmon.
Ainara Singleton, 9, said that studying salmon in a variety of ways--including dissection--was "really cool."
Singleton led her kindergarten buddy by the hand as they walked down the embankment to the Clear Creek stream just a few minutes walk from the school.
The student named her fish Pat after Pat Kirschbaum, an educator and outreach coordinator with the Clear Creek Trail.
On site, Kirschbaum handed students their small, clear cups filled with a twitchy salmon waiting to be released. She also showed the students a map of where their salmon would travel once released into the frigid waters.
"I'm a teacher, and so I just love the kids getting this experience outside and being able to apply what they learn in the classroom to real life," Kirschbaum said. While small groups of students said goodbye to their fish, other students focused on planting trees just up the hill from the stream. Bromley and other members of the Clear Creek Task Force wanted students to understand the importance of healthy trees in the area to feed nutrients into the creek for the fish.
Since September, the students have been taught in a variety of mediums about the fish, Bromley said. In October, they visited Grover Creek Fish Hatchery to see the early stages of salmon that would later be in their classroom.
In January, Bromley's students received 100 eggs to observe and study prior to the release date on the first day of spring.
"They now appreciate what an integral part of our environment they are," Bromley said of the day's activities. "It's neat for them to see a process of a living organism go from birth to almost a teen."
Additionally, students made beaded salmon necklaces and played a game to learn the life cycle events inside classrooms while other students were outside releasing salmon. Older students also put on a salmon sock puppet play to better explain the life cycles to other students.
To top off the day, student pairs paraded around the school in handmade paper salmon costumes.
"Salmon in the Classroom was started in 1987 by a local chapter of the Kiwanis Club, to help restore salmon runs to Clear Creek, while educating school children about the life cycle of salmon," according to the Clear Creek Trail website.