Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Salmon Watch - Vernonia

The day started out a bit chilly and foggy but I knew the sun would soon be shining.  I drove up the road to Vernonia and stopped at the new school on my way to the salmon watch site.  Coincidentally, Aaron, the principal was just entering the school and asked me if I wanted a quick tour.  The school houses kindergarten through high school students.  It is LEED certified and replaces the older schools which have been ravaged by floods in recent years.  I was quite impressed with what I saw.  After a few minutes of chatting about the great natural resources based curriculum currently underway, I left school and headed to the stream where students would soon join me. 

Even though there had been no rain for the last couple months, the landowner said that he had indeed seen some fish in the stream.  Bonus for a salmon watch event.  Students from kindergarten, first, and fourth grade soon arrived on numerous buses.  After a brief introduction, I headed to the "water bug" station and waited for my first group.  The water bug station was one of nine groups that the students would take turns visiting.  The others included salmon viewing, salmon lifecycle and dissection, riparian walk, tree identification, and animal identification to name a few.

Students collecting macroinvertebrates.
There were about 8 students in each group for the morning session.  Each fourth grader was paired with a younger kid.  I watched as they held hands and worked with their younger partner.  I gave a short introduction on why we study water bugs and their importance to the stream and salmon.  Most of the fourth graders already knew much of this.  They not only study salmon but raise them in their classroom.  We spent the rest of our time collecting the insects, examining, and identifying them.

An extra bit of excitement at my station included a pair of coho salmon guarding a redd directly across the stream.  Every so often the female would do a little digging as well.  The students were very quiet so they did not scare the fish away.  All in all, I'd say the students had a fun day and learned alot.  And yes, the sun did indeed shine.

Two salmon sitting on a redd.

Submitted by Donna Allard

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