“What can boring fish eggs teach us?” a 4th grader asked while looking at the motionless eggs at the bottom of the tank. “I thought you were bringing real fish into the classroom”.
“Just you wait!” I said hoping he would reconsider after watching the eggs transform over the next three months.
My goal, as STEM curriculum developer, was to bring into focus how organisms grow and develop. Studying Atlantic salmon, from eggs to fish, would provide a model for the study of life cycles, traits, behavior, natural selection, and the influence of the environment. The Yarmouth Elementary Salmon Hatchery offered a unique, hands-on experience for students and educators, who might otherwise never get up-close to such fascinating creatures that once lived abundantly in the nearby Royal River. Students also applied math skills when predicting “Hatch-Out” day and estimating the relative amounts of ocean, glacier, ground and fresh water on Earth.
After the students released the young salmon fry many miles upriver from Yarmouth, they asked new questions….Will they find enough food? Will they survive? Will they return to the Royal? Although I knew we couldn’t answer most of these questions, their experience clearly stimulated thinking beyond the classroom.
In the end, the 4th graders made keen observations, asked questions, tested predictions, and shared conclusions in conversations and writing about the growth and development of salmon. Their first hand experience observing, caring for, and learning about an endangered species, will likely make a lasting impression and potentially create a new generation of environmental stewards.
– by Deborah Landry, Ph.D.
Project Sponsors: Atlantic Salmon Federation, Saco Salmon Club, Yarmouth Education Foundation, Yarmouth School District and iXplore STEM