Each year, the Downeast Salmon Federation pays a visit to local schools with a very special delivery; 200 endangered Atlantic salmon eggs. The students care for the eggs until they hatch and grow to become fry. They then release their fry with the hope that in a few years’ time, their salmon will return as adults to the very river they released them in. This is all part of the Fish Friends Program run by Atlantic Salmon Federation. Formally this educational outreach program was called Salmon in the Schools, a program run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. DSF staff assume the role of facilitator to these young salmon enthusiasts. We give presentations to participating classrooms on the salmon lifecycle, the difference between incubating salmon in the hatchery and the wild, and the importance of good quality salmon habitat. We don’t just talk to the students about salmon, we also get them doing hands-on activities like a hooks and ladders game that shows them the trials and tribulations of being a migratory fish, and lets them play the role of fisheries manager. We demonstrate the importance of clean gravel to incubating eggs and alevin with a porosity and permeability activity, and we let them really get their hands dirty when we determine the quality of the water they release their fish into by doing a real macroinvertebrate survey in the spring.
We typically visit around eight area schools each year, with more to come in the future. If you are involved with or know of a school you would like to see get involved in the program, feel free to reach out to the Fish Friend’s coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org!