Issaquah schools face end of Salmon in the Classroom program
December 25, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 25, 2010
The salmon — or, more specifically, salmon eggs — return to a Clark Elementary School classroom each year.
But fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Liza Rickey could face a change in the curriculum next month: the end of the Salmon in the Classroom program.
In the program, students raise salmon, learn about water quality and salmon habitat, and discover the relationship between Issaquah Creek and Puget Sound.
State legislators eliminated dollars for the program in a round of budget cuts during the Dec. 11 special session. The program is a casualty of cuts as state leaders face a gaping budget hole.
“It’s such a worthy project for the kids to see,” Rickey said. “It’s hands on, it’s real world. It’s a very important resource in our area, and now it’s not even available for them to experience in that way.”
The state used federal dollars to fund Salmon in the Classroom, but the funding has been shifted to other fish and wildlife programs.
The end of Salmon in the Classroom caught Rickey and other teachers in the program by surprise.
Some teachers had already picked up salmon eggs for the program. Rickey had secured a permit from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to raise the salmon, before she learned about the cut from Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Executive Director Gestin Suttle. (Rickey planned to pick up eggs from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery after winter break.)
Department of Fish and Wildlife Program Manager Christy Vassar about 400 to 500 schools statewide participated in the program per year.
“There was no heads up,” Rickey said. “I got the permit without any problem whatsoever. I didn’t get any papers or e-mails or anything that this might be coming down the way.”
The salmon program is part of a yearlong water ecology unit at Clark and is integrated into the science-and-technology curriculum.
Sunset Elementary School has also participated in the program. Students raised the eggs to fry and released the salmon into Lewis Creek.
The salmon education extends beyond the classroom at Clark. Students raised $2,000 and donated the money to FISH for a display at the downtown hatchery last year.
“Science is my passion. It’s my background. I feel very, very strongly about it,” she said. “When I had the opportunity to start this program, it was a perfect fit for me.”
So, Rickey set up a 50-gallon tank in the classroom — purchased for a deal on craigslist — and then used the hands-on program to teach fourth- and fifth-graders to care for the eggs and fledgling fish.
“Once they’re trained, the kids totally run it,” she said.
Then, in the spring, Rickey and the students journey to Issaquah Creek and release the fish. The field trip includes water-quality testing.
The end of Salmon in the Classroom is “going to be really upsetting to the kids,” she added.
Rickey hopes the program can continue in some way for Clark students, perhaps through field trips to the downtown hatchery to examine tiny fish.
“It’s definitely not going to be as meaningful, because we’ll have to take a field trip to monitor them,” she said.