Skyridge Middle School students spend a day with the Columbia River Fisheries Program

Wildlife up close

Skyridge Middle School students dissect salmon as part of a field trip at the Columbia River Fisheries Center in Vancouver.

When avid fisherman Gayle Cooper was asked if she’d like to take students on a field trip to the Columbia River Fisheries Program, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Fishing is really big in my family and there’s also the environmental component, which is very important,” said the Skyridge Middle School teacher.

Cooper was contacted by Donna Allard, a fish biologist in charge of education at the fisheries program.

The students spent a day at the Fisheries Center in Vancouver, where they were split into four groups and went to a fish dissection station, played salmon life cycle mini-golf, “tracked” a fish down by using radio transmitter signals, and played a full-sized invasive species board game.

“It was really fun,” Cooper said. “All students got to experience each station.”

After the morning activities, students ate lunch with the team of biologists who had led the stations and had the opportunity to ask questions.

“It was nice because it cultivates budding biologists and gets the kids to interact with them,” Cooper said. “All of the adults talked about their careers and how they got into the field, so the kids also received job advice.”

Eighth-grader Marshall McIvor enjoyed learning more about the difficulties salmon face just getting to a fish ladder at Bonneville Dam.

“I wanted to go on the field trip because I am interested in marine biology and thought I could get some good career advice,” he said.

His favorite activity was the dissection.

“It was pretty fun because you get to identify all the different parts,” he said.

Seventh-grader William Kupar attended because he goes fishing often and wanted more information about local waterways and species of fish.

“I really liked the fish dissection because you got to touch it and cut it open,” he said.

Sixth-grader Merissa Landers has several Beta fish at home and wanted to learn more about them.

“I really liked the fish tracking activity,” she said. “The invasive species game was also fun.”

For more information or to schedule a field trip, contact Donna Allard at donna_allard@fws.gov.