Preschoolers Release Salmon Into Yakima River As Part Of Educational Program | Outdoor and recreation

On Friday, the students at Sol Shine Nature Kindergarten said goodbye to friends they had known well over the previous 18 weeks.

Over 200 chinook salmon eggs arrived from the Priest Rapids Hatchery in January, and the 17 students saw them grow into alvins with bright orange bellies, then turn into fry. Finally, they were ready to be released into the Yakima River from the boat launch at Harlan Landing.

“There she is, happily far away!” Exclaimed Margaux Dunn, as a salmon she named Jasmine left a plastic cup to begin her perilous 400-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean.

This is the first year that Sol Shine Nature Kindergarten and Yakima Region Arboretum have participated in the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program, led by Tiffany Bishop. She said about 50 schools from Grandview to Grand Coulee typically raise fish from eggs, although challenges posed by COVID-19 have reduced that number by about half this year.

YBEEP has worked with students of all ages, from preschool to college, with a program that includes field trips and presentations from local experts. COVID-19 has changed some of those plans, like Priest Rapids Hatchery and even a few schools closed to all visitors.

But the students were back in class to release the fish this spring, unlike last year when Bishop and the teachers could only share the climax with the students through online videos. Yakima area arboretum education and outreach coordinator Garrett Brenden said he spent around 30 hours teaching fish, mostly focused on teaching preschoolers of how salmon change during their life cycle and to provide a broader context.

“The main thing was to get the kids used to the idea that we have salmon,” said Brenden. “The salmon are important and we are trying to do something to help them.”

Can’t remember when your school won this state title? Need to settle a bet? A place for decades of valley sports.

About 1,300 visitors from the community came to the Arboretum and had the opportunity to learn about fish, how they migrate and the essential role they play in our ecosystem. Hundreds of thousands of salmon once populated the Yakima River, and this project is a small way to try and bring back the fish that have been wiped out by dams, European settlers and overfishing.

After the Arboretum contacted YBEEP to get involved with Salmon in the Classroom, Bishop quickly obtained approval from the leadership of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. Brenden was impressed with the response from the community, starting with $ 2,000 in mostly private donations for all interpretive signs, posters and necessary equipment.

Retired teacher and Arboretum volunteer Bruce Whitmire, who trained as part of the naturalist program, knows that educating the public about the value of salmon is essential to restoration work. Caring for young fish this year has added another tool and he is optimistic about the many initiatives underway in the area to bring salmon back and improve their habitat.

Sol Shine principal Colleen Smith said the program is an integral part of the Kindergarten second-graders curriculum, which focuses on the outdoors. It will likely become a regular feature with the help of Brenden and the Arboretum.

“He’s so good with kids and he can really connect with them,” Smith said. “They want to see Garrett, and therefore they want to listen to Garrett.”

He crouched down on the shore and guided the children through the process of releasing a fish, each with a unique name given by a student. That way, said Brenden, preschoolers can imagine their salmon spending three to four years in the ocean, where they can grow to 10 to 40 pounds, and if they’re one of the lucky few, they’ll end up. by going up the Yakima River to spawn the Next Generation.

Back To Top