Fourth-graders in the Puyallup School District are getting a chance for some hands-on learning at the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery with a new educational field trip.
In conjunction with their learning in the classroom, students get an up-close-and-personal look at the salmon life cycle.
“We make it a half-day field trip and get in as much information as we possibly can in that time,” said Teena VanBlaricom, science resource coordinator for the Puyallup School District. “The field trips meet the new up and coming state standards, and we’re able to incorporate that into the curriculum.”
The first group of students from Firgrove Elementary arrived at the hatchery on the morning of Nov. 8, where five different stations awaited them. Separating into groups, students took turns visiting each station, which highlighted five salmon topics: the salmon life cycle, salmon habitat, salmon spawning, migration and human impacts.
“They find out how important salmon is to the ecosystem,” VanBlaricom said. “It’s the only place where they can see the salmon life cycle from the very beginning. They get to see (salmon) in their egg form when they’re first hatching all the way up to adulthood.”
At one station, students held salmon eggs. At the migration station, they had to smell water samples and identify which creeks they came from. They took the temperature of water samples with thermometers, learning salmon need cool, clean and clear water to thrive.
“They’re learning all about clean water in this lesson,” said Georga Prossick, founding director and president of the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation. “That’s our goal. We wanted to educate them about how important clean water is.”
The two-hour trip also makes a big difference for students, some of which learn better with demonstrations and visuals.
“A lot of kids struggle with reading and writing and so when you put them out in the environment like that, they just flourish,” VanBlaricom said.
To prepare for the lessons, staff put together signs that were placed around the hatchery, so students can follow along.
“They all pertain to what they’re learning in the classroom,” Prossick said.
They find out how important salmon is to the ecosystem. It’s the only place where they can see the salmon life cycle from the very beginning. They get to see them in their egg form when they’re first hatching all the way up to adulthood.
Teena VanBlaricom, science resource coordinator for the Puyallup School District
In the spring of 2015, staff from the school district and the hatchery began discussing field experience opportunities for fourth-grade students. From there, with help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pacific Institute Education and Pierce Conservation District, the curriculum was organized and activity booklets were made.
From November through January, 30 fourth-grade classes will visit the hatchery twice a week. In the future, VanBlaricom hopes that even more classes will be able to participate.
“There’s been a huge response from the teachers,” she said. “Everyone wanted to go.”
For now, both Prossick and VanBlaricom are excited to get the field trips up and running — and there’s no excitement lost on students, either.
“A couple of kids said it’s their favorite trip ever,” Prossick said. “They were learning, but they were really having fun. We’re thrilled to have to have this program at our hatchery.”