Foster Creek Conservation District
Foster Creek Conservation District

Salmon in the Classroom

Background Information:


Educating youth on the importance of clean, copious water for humans, fish, and wildlife to share is part of Foster Creek CD's mission.  Salmon-in-the-classroom teaches K-12 students and adults about the salmon life cycle, their need for clean water to survive, and responsibility of caring for a tank.  


Students and teachers host a tank from early January until their release day, typically in late April or early May.  Students test the tank water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels on a weekly basis to ensure the health and survivorship of their salmon.   


This program allows participants to see salmon transform through several early life stages right before their eyes: eyed-egg --> alevin (sac fry) --> fry


Chinook salmon are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean, and return as mature adults to their natal streams to spawn.  The release of these Chinook fry from their classroom tank is just the beginning of their journey and the start of many obstacles that they will face.  If they survive into adulthood, they will return to the upper Columbia River to spawn. 


FUN FACT:  Steelhead are the only salmon that are iteroparous, meaning a percentage of them can survive after spawning.  These incredible salmon are referred to as "kelts".  

The Program: 


Over the past few years and with the help of the WA Dept of Fish & Wildlife, FCCD has now brought Salmon in the Classroom to Mansfield Elementary School and Lake Roosevelt Junior High School.  In early January, 250 summer Chinook salmon eggs were delivered to classrooms hosting a 55 gallon tank. 


Over the winter and early spring, participating teachers and students will hatch, raise, feed and finally, release the salmon in mid-spring.


Students track Thermal Units (TUs) to predict when the eyed-eggs will hatch.  TUs will continue to be tracked to predict when the alevin will begin feeding on hatchery-supplied fish food, or after their sac (food supply) has "buttoned up". 


Eyed-eggs are received from Wells Hatchery in early January

Student looks on to the newly delivered eyed-egg Chinook

Tanks are equipped with insulation and a viewing window to keep the water cool during development

Chinook alevin nearing the fry life stage 

Salmon tank set up with Chinook alevin

FCCD staff and Patrick Phillips (pictured), Douglas Co PUD, visit the classrooms to check on the health of the salmon and provide water quality presentations

Since 2018, 589 summer Chinook fry have been released into lagoons in the Columbia River.  Release locations include Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee and Columbia Cove Park in Brewster. 


Students measure and record the water temperature of the Columbia River and the transportation buckets (in orange).  


Allowing the salmon to acclimate to the river water temperatures will increase their chance of survival by decreasing the shock of the cooler water to their system.  Think of jumping into Lake Chelan in May - brrr, that's cold!


Additionally, salmon smell their way home.  This acclimation process gives the salmon an opportunity to smell their new "home" to which they will return to as adults to spawn.


Students wait their turn to scoop a cupful of fry to release simultaneously into the river.  Strength in numbers help these young salmon survive when faced against predators, such as, the Northern pikeminnow, piscivorous birds, and other larger salmon. 


Two Chinook fry waiting for their turn to be released into their new home.  They will remain in the Columbia River for several more months, building their strength, until making the long journey downstream to the Pacific Ocean. 


Students simultaneously releasing the summer Chinook fry in mid-April. 


After the release, most schools experience a tour at the Rocky Reach Discovery Center to learn about fish health, water quality, and hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River.  


Pictured: Lupe Peterson, Chelan PUD, explains the fish bypass system installed at Rocky Reach Dam. 







There is a variety of Oncorhynchus (genus in the family Salmonidae) in the Pacific Northwest.  Salmon-in-the-classroom focuses on the endangered O. tshawytscha, or the Chinook salmon. 




Salmon-in-the-classroom funding provided by: 


Thank you to our sponsor, Douglas County PUD,
for providing us with a tank, supplying the eyed-egg Chinook from Wells Hatchery, and Q&A support to administer this program. 

Thank you to our other sponsor,
Trout Unlimited, for providing us with a second tank. 


All necessary permits to handle and release these summer Chinook are obtained through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Print | Sitemap
Foster Creek Conservation District 203 S Rainier Waterville, WA 98858 509-888-6372 © Foster Creek CD