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Salmon Stewardship at GIS

A longstanding tradition at GIS has been the fourth grade’s participation in Fish Eggs to Fry, the Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) developed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). 

Through the program, ODFW provides participating Oregon classrooms with over 300 salmon eggs apiece. Classes incubate the eggs until the hatched fish fry are large enough to be released into a local creek, stream, or river. 

During the incubation period, fourth graders with clipboards are often seen in the hallway staring intently at the school’s aquarium, which is supplied with clean, perfectly chilled water specially prepared for the salmon. Students are tasked with recording valuable information for ODFW, including daily temperature readings, egg and fry mortality, and the total number of salmon fry released back into local waterways. The students also participate in the salmon release itself, a highlight for students, teachers, and parents alike.

Not only do our students take a direct role in supporting the salmon life cycle by incubating eggs and releasing salmon fry back into the wild, but they also learn about the enduring cultural importance of salmon to Native American communities in the region. 

In fall 2023, GIS hosted guest speaker Jeremy FiveCrows from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. An enrolled member of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) tribe, Jeremy FiveCrows presented to the fourth graders on salmon culture from an indigenous perspective. His presentation highlighted salmon’s role in tribal history and culture in the Pacific Northwest, the hardships faced by salmon and indigenous communities as a consequence of dam construction along the Snake and Columbia rivers, ongoing salmon restoration and conservation efforts by Native tribes, and salmon stewardship as an integral part of indigenous folklore and heritage. 

Students were also reminded of their own role as advocates for salmon in our greater community, and they took that responsibility to heart as they released their 1-inch salmon fry into the Tualatin River at Cook Park in Tigard. 

In spring, fourth graders take a field trip to the Bonneville Lock and Dam, located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. At the national historic site, students observe the spring salmon run through fish ladders designed to aid salmon on their migratory journey. This gives students a firsthand glimpse into another phase of the salmon life cycle, allowing them to witness the return of adult salmon to their original freshwater spawning grounds. Students also learn about hydropower as a renewable resource while visiting the dam, engaging with another line of inquiry in the yearlong IB unit, “Sharing the Planet.” 

Native Pacific salmon and steelhead trout inhabit almost half of the 300 miles of waterways in the Portland region. We are fortunate to live in an area that not only prioritizes the significance of clean water for all living things, but also gives young people the chance to learn firsthand about the importance of nature stewardship from different angles. At GIS we are proud to foster student stewards for salmon and other wildlife, and we are honored to contribute to the work done by indigenous communities and others to preserve, protect, and pass on rich cultural traditions and environmental awareness to create a better world for all.

Fourth graders prepared a collaborative research project about salmon as part of their learning. To view their presentation, please scan the QR code below. 

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