Students Take In Salmon Life Lessons by the Anchor River

Shaylon Cochran
Children assist ADF&G staffers Tim Blackmon (left)
and Jenny Cope in gathering eggs
Rashah McChesney photo

     Busloads of elementary students from across the Peninsula were in Anchor Point Wednesday, as the Department of Fish and Game’s Salmon in the Classroom program got started for another year.  The first outdoor session shows students how the salmon life cycle begins.

     On a sunny morning, just off the banks of the Anchor River, students from K-Beach elementary got a firsthand look at the beginning of life for silver salmon.  

     Fish and Game Biologist Jenny Cope from the Soldotna office, with help from Homer colleagues Mike Booz and Tim Blackmon and some student volunteers, elicited reactions ranging from surprise to laughter to sounds of being perhaps a little grossed out.

     This is the first in a series of presentations and outdoor excursions called Salmon in the Classroom and its purpose is to educate Alaska’s youth about pacific salmon species from the beginning of life to its spawning end.

     “We’re actually going through the spawning process and fertilizing the eggs and sending the kids back to their classrooms to put the eggs in their tanks and giving a brief introduction to life cycle and external anatomy,” Booz said.

     The students are sent back to class with about 250 eggs that will be incubated, and the kids will observe the gradual change from egg, to an eyed egg, to alevin to fry.  Those same reactions heard at the demonstration table will be repeated throughout the year as students continue to learn, Booz said.

     “You do see the gamut of experiences and we continue to get that throughout the curriculum when we’re in the classroom performing dissections or again, with the release of the fish at the end of the year,” he said. 

     The students will care for the young salmon throughout the school year, and come next spring, the fry will be released into a designated lake.  After the eggs were mixed with the male’s milt, Cope encouraged the students to give the eggs a special message as their lives as salmon begin.