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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

STOCKTON FWO: Science in the Classroom -- Service fish biologists teach salmon ecology to Modesto 3rd Graders

Region 8, February 6, 2012
AIS Program Coordinator, Ron Smith, leads students though the Salmon Survivor module.
AIS Program Coordinator, Ron Smith, leads students though the Salmon Survivor module. - Photo Credit: n/a

MODESTO, Calif. -- Service biologists, Ron Smith, Jonathan Thompson, and Louanne McMartin, from the Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office (FWO) met with Sipherd Elementary School third graders and their teachers in Modesto, Calif., on February 6, to give a presentation on the basics of salmon ecology and what it takes to be biologist.

Jenlane Matt’s third grade class is already participating in the California Department of Fish and Game’s Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) the students experience first-hand raising salmon in the classroom. In mid-January, Mrs. Matt’s class received 30 Chinook salmon eggs from the Merced Hatchery delivered by volunteers from the Modesto Chapter of the Striped Bass Association. This program provides an opportunity for students and teachers to understand and respect aquatic ecosystems, and to recognize how all humans are linked to these complex environments.

Before lunch, the trio of fishery biologists introduced themselves and prepped the students and teachers before afternoon activities by presenting a video illustrating the link between the health of salmon with the health of the environment. The biologists ended the morning session by answering questions from how long Chinook salmon live to what Fish and Wildlife Service biologist do to help conserve the fish and wildlife and their habitats.

After lunch, the students and their teachers rotated through three 20 minute activities. In a classroom setting, Jonathan Thompson taught the Salmon Life Cycle module while the students made salmon egg bracelets and asked questions. Louanne McMartin lead the Salmon Web of Life module teaching the children how all the organism in an ecosystem depend on each other to survive and what would happen if one organism was removed from the web.

For an outdoor activity, Smith lead students though the Salmon Survivor module. By selecting half the class to represent salmon and the other half as bears, eagles, fisherman, and barriers at dams, the students learned of the many hazards salmon face on their migration and that not many salmon survive the ordeal to return to their home stream to spawn and continue the life cycle.

At the end of the activities, the students were asked how they can help maintain and preserve California's fisheries and aquatic habitats, and how their personal actions affect these valuable resources. According to the instructors, the students were very thoughtful in their responses from discussing how they and others can conserve water and electricity at home and in the classroom to bigger ideas of how society can be better stewards of the salmon.

-- FWS --

Contact Info: Louanne McMartin, 209-946-6400 X 337, louanne_mcmartin@fws.gov