Friday, 24 July 2015

Fun Friday-Science close up

It's the end of another week of summer and I'm almost half way through the break already. Now I'm less envious of you teachers in the US who were out so much earlier than we were here in Canada. June seemed to go on FOREVER while you posted about the fun summer activities you were doing.
One of the fun things I've been doing is catching up on blogging. And speaking of fun, today is Fun Friday, the last of the five day linky parties hosted by Freebielicious. There have been lots of great posts linked up there this week.  Go HERE to see them. 

One of the best fun things we do at school is hands on learning and first hand observation. In my school district we have a salmonoid enhancement program that classes can take part in. I was fortunate to have a wonderful, energetic teaching partner this year who has participated in the program many times. She asked if I would be interested in having her set it up for our class. Of course I would!!

Every 4th year is a special year in our neck of the woods because the sockeye salmon from the Adams River return after their 4 year life cycle to spawn. There are smaller runs in other years, but 2014 was the BIG year. It is the biggest salmon run in the world, and people come from all over in September and October to witness it. 

I arranged for a class field trip out to the spawning grounds in early October. This is always an exciting day for us. We study about salmon beforehand and the kids feel pretty knowledgeable by the time we get there. 

It's spectacular to see. The kids are always enthralled and the day goes by quickly. There are excellent trails and viewing platforms.

There's a short hands-on session for small groups put on by the federal department of fisheries. 

 A couple of weeks after our trip Joanne, the district coordinator for the Salmonid Enhancement Program, came to our school. She set up the tank in the hall for the new salmon we'd be raising and gave the class an explanation of the program and our part in it.  
The following week there was HUGE anticipation leading up to her return visit. The kids knew she would be bringing her pick up with a male and female salmon and we would be harvesting eggs and sperm from them to start our project. The moment she pulled into the parking lot they spotted her (you can see the lot from our room. They were supposed to be writing in their Journals -LOL!)
I had never done this project before and I was surprised and the kids were delighted when Joanne came to the door with a yellow slicker and chest waders for ME to put on!  I got to fish the salmon out of the tank and hold them while she "milked" them. Let me tell you they were SLIPPERY and WIGGLY!
The kids all got a closes up look at the eggs, then we took them inside where my special helper and his chosen buddy got to do the fertilization. Amazing!  

We counted down the days and took temperatures from the tank from early November until late January while the long incubation period passed.  The tank was covered in styrofoam sheets to keep it dark inside so we had no idea what was happening in there. We wrote reports and predictions and stories.
And we waited. And we waited.
And finally the alevin hatched. LOTS of them. Practically ALL of the eggs had been viable and successfully fertilized (this doesn't always happen). We observed and wrote more. 

And when their egg sacs disappeared and they were fry we fed them every day.

Until the day at the end of May when we went out to a local creek to release them to continue their 4year life cycle. 

This project was so great for the class. They got to see and do things that were unique. They were totally engaged and enthusiastic about what they learned and have a far better understanding than if we'd watched a video or read books, or had a speaker in. 
We are fortunate here to be able to participate in this program. I would LOVE to be able to take my kids on a visit to the ocean, or a hike through a rainforest, or to the many local things that are available wherever you live. Since I can't I highly recommend that you take advantage of those fun, educational opportunities that are around you that help your students to love learning and to make it a lifelong pursuit. 

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