Salmon in the Classroom program spawns gift to Clark Elementary School
March 6, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The long-running Salmon in the Classroom program at Clark Elementary School remained afloat due to a donation from a former student.
Issaquah native Jerry Pearson, a Snoqualmie attorney and former Clark Elementary student, said childhood memories of salmon in Lewis Creek and concerns about budget cuts to public schools inspired the donation.
“It’s important for kids to know that the salmon are an important part of the culture in the Northwest,” he said. “They need to know that salmon are so much more than just the logo on posters for Salmon Days.”
Pearson recalled fishing for trout and perch in Lewis Creek as a boy growing up near the south end of Lake Sammamish.
Once, he received a scolding from his mother after he brought home a salmon he pulled from the creek. Until he toured the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery on a school trip, Pearson thought of salmon as little more than “red trout.”
Salmon in the Classroom, as the name suggests, enables students to raise the iconic Pacific Northwest fish from eggs to fry. Then, as the program concludes in the spring, students release the fry into creeks.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife used to administer the program, but after state lawmakers drained Salmon in the Classroom dollars in 2010, a grassroots effort formed to salvage the popular program.
Statewide, about 500 schools participated in Salmon in the Classroom during a typical year before the budget cuts.
In the months after the state nixed Salmon in the Classroom, the Salmon Education Alliance — a coalition of area educators, fish biologists and program advocates — proposed a system of regional coordinators throughout the state to act as a liaison for schools.
Under a plan hatched last year after state support for Salmon in the Classroom dissolved, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery agreed to serve as the coordinator for more than 100 schools.
Salmon eggs for the program at schools in the Issaquah area come from the hatchery.
Pearson said he hopes 5-year-old grandson Dylan can participate in the Clark Elementary fry release near Pickering Barn on March 21.
“That will symbolize our own very personal cycle of life,” Pearson said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com