Salmon Days program brings students to Parkdale Hatchery

October 12, 2011

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Hands-on education at the Parkdale Fish Hatchery through a collaborative program called Salmon Days. At the second-annual field day brought classes from Parkdale and Mid Valley to the hatchery for lessons about salmon and water.

Using both good and bad designations for the word "sick," students touring the Parkdale Fish Hatchery got a series of hands-on lessons as a highlight to their classroom salmon education series.

Other expressions during the day included "awesome," "crazy," "gross" and "the salmon are going to eat us".

Last week's field trip, called Salmon Days, was the second year local elementary school students visited the hatchery for the hands-on educational experience.

Organized by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, with the help of several other organizations, this year the hatchery hosted the entire fourth grade from Mid Valley and the fifth grade from Parkdale.

"Salmon Days is a unique experience both for the students and for members of the community," said Lindsay Brewer, CTWS fisheries biologist. "We work in conjunction with a variety of organizations including US Fish and Wildlife Service from Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, Middle Fork Irrigation District, Farmers Irrigation District, Yakima, Warm Springs and Umatilla Tribal members, Hood River Watershed Group, AmeriCorps volunteers with the U.S. Forest Service, and volunteers from the community. The vast and diverse knowledge these educators bring to the program, and to the kids, is really impressive."

Brewer explained that the crux of the program is to expose students to real-life lessons about the Hood River Valley Watershed and, in particular, its connection with salmon.

At the hatchery -- about a mile from Parkdale on Red Hill Road - seven stations were designed to give students a variety of lessons on salmon lifecycles, habitat and biology.

Lessons included a hatchery tour, which gave students an introduction into the different stages of the salmon lifecycle, from eggs to reds to smolts to adults.

At another station, students learned about macroinvertebrates; what they are, their location in the food chain, their habitat and their importance in an ecosystem.

At the habitat station, students learned about what components constitute a healthy riparian landscape, what indicators of a healthy stream are, how erosion can create turbidity and why riparian vegetation is essential to streams.

A hydropower station introduced students to the uses of fish screens at water intakes, conservation, healthy hydropower, the importance of water and power conservation. This station took place at Middle Fork Irrigation District's on-site hydropower facility, which allowed teachers to show rather than tell students the process of generating electricity; from stream to turbine and back to stream.

Two favorites among the students were the homing station, in which students learned about the homing sense of salmon through a game that tested their own senses, and the salmon lifecycle station that had kids running, weaving and jumping through an obstacle course to highlight the difficult journey salmon take from stream to ocean and back.

At the tribal fishing and culture stations, students were introduced to lamprey, a fish present in the Hood River Basin and culturally-significant to the tribes. They also sat fireside at a traditional salmon bake, with the company of members from the Yakima and Warm Springs tribes.

"It was a busy day," Brewer said. "I think it really helped students solidify their classroom lessons. It brings the concepts they learn in class to life."

After the field day, the classes will rear their own Spring Chinook in a fish tank, while continuing with lessons on watersheds, a salmon dissection, and tribal culture with a member of the Warm Springs Tribes.

The Parkdale Fish Hatchery is owned by the Bonneville Power Administration and operated by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The hatchery has been in operation since 1998 and raises Spring Chinook Salmon as part of a reintroduction program and Winter Steelhead as part of a supplementation program in the Hood River Basin.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

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