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Salmon migrate into the Breidablik curriculum

POULSBO — The Puget Sound’s salmon are akin to a shepherd’s staff or a traveler’s map.

Without the salmon the Sound would be left wanting, as neither the area nor its residents from centuries past and present could survive without the silver-and-red-colored invertebrates.

It’s the salmon’s eternal connectivity to the area’s culture and environment that makes the mysterious fish the perfect educational tool to cornerstone and kick off Breidablik Elementary’s year of Learning Locally journey.

“The salmon are the symbol of the people and the land. Without the salmon this web doesn’t work,” said Breidablik librarian Mary Fox. “The salmon are so integrated into who we are. We want the kids to be connected with what’s here because if they’re not we lose the value.”

Each month Breidablik staff will focus on a different locally tied theme that figuratively follows the salmons’ trip out to the ocean and back up river.

September’s theme is “beginning the journey” and for October the focus is “homecoming” with planned visits to tribal fisheries, hatcheries and various creeks the salmon return to.

Reading, writing and thinking are also inextricably tied to the Learning Locally curriculum, as Breidablik is doing a year-long reading challenge.

The salmons’ fresh-to-salt-water-and-back journey will be mapped out at Breidablik. Each student will receive a salmon cutout, and for every certain number of minutes the students read each month they’ll get to move their salmon a certain number of miles along the mapped out journey.

“It’s the student’s journey as well,” Fox said.

On Wednesday Peter Donaldson, an educator, curriculum designer and instructional coach of 24 years, kicked off the Learning Locally year with a motivational reading assembly centered around salmon of course.

“We’re going to learn as much as we can about our neighborhoods, our streams, our part of the Puget Sound, the rain that falls on our ground, these trees, these minds,” Donaldson said. “We’re just beginning; readers, writers and thinkers.”

He told the throng of elementary students, whose attention he captivated with a unique style of story telling involving a rhythmic drum beat, to stop thinking of reading and writing as just a school assignment.

“When you graduate you’ll love to read and write because you’ll learn stuff,” he said.

He informed the students about the native people who used to live in harmony with the streams and the salmon. Then about the traders and fur trappers who came and the dams that were eventually built. He asked the students to think about the impact this string of arrivals and events had on the salmon, and to answer such questions they had to be thinkers.

He even connected a salmon’s ability to read and learn to that of the students’.

“Salmon can read. They can read the waters,” Donaldson said. “Their brains are not filled with thinking like you and I think, they learn through instinct. They know where to go down the stream, just like Jump Off Joe Creek near your school.”

Next he launched into a story about the Salmon People, demonstrating the power of words and showing the connectivity between people, the salmon and how one’s actions can dramatically impact the environment and other forms of life.

Sometimes it’s essential to delve all the way back in time to completely understand a story.

“Salmon are a local icon through which we can learn that story,” Donaldson said.

The year of Learning Locally kick-off wrapped up on Thursday with a series of grade-level staff workshops presented by Donaldson.

Over the summer Breidablik hosted a sustainability/Learning Locally three-day brainstorm and lecture series.

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