Connecting with their environment

Washougal fourth-graders raise unique classroom pets

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Salmon in the Classroom

The Coho salmon fingerlings (small, young fish) that are being raised by Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School fourth-graders will be released into the Washougal River in November. In January, they will receive 250 Coho eggs from the Lewis River Hatchery in Woodland. Students will be able to watch them hatch and grow.

Salmon in the Classroom is a program of Columbia Springs, funded by Clark Public Utilities. “By studying salmon, their habitat, and water quality, students discover the interrelationships of species within their local watershed,” states the Columbia Springs website. “By learning how to protect the salmon’s habitat, the students ultimately learn how to care for the health of their own environment.”

Cape Horn-Skye is one of 50 schools in Clark County that are participating in the program.

For more information, visit, or call Katie Woollven at 882-0936.

Having pets in the classroom is an experience that many remember for a lifetime.

At Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School in Washougal, a fourth-grade classroom recently acquired some pretty unique pets: Fifteen Coho salmon fingerlings.

They are a part of the Salmon in the Classroom program, which is coordinated by Columbia Springs and funded by Clark Public Utilities.

The goal is to engage students, parents and community members in Clark County in environmental stewardship by connecting them with salmon and raising awareness of its life cycle and habitat requirements.

“I read about the program last spring and felt it was an educational opportunity that was just tailored for Cape Horn-Skye,” said Kathleen Lawrence, fourth-grade teacher.

She and fellow teachers Alice Yang and Lisa Kaaihue researched the program, gained administrative approval and completed the necessary paperwork.

“It was in late spring that I was notified that we had been accepted as one of the new schools that would be supporting the SITC program for the 2015-16 school year,” Lawrence said. “As educators, the three of us feel that we need to take every opportunity available to introduce our students to the world around us.”

The fingerlings, 4 inches long, were delivered approximately a month ago from the nearby Washougal Hatchery to the school. The students and teachers will care for them until the end of November, when they will release them back into the Washougal River.

In January, the students will receive 250 Coho eggs from the Lewis River Hatchery that they will also watch hatch and grow.

“What better way to instill the awareness and ownership of our river surroundings with the students, than to have them observe and form personal connections with their salmon up close, to learn of the unique life cycle of salmon and of the salmon habitat and its requirements,” Lawrence said.

She noted that the program had brought science alive for all students at Cape Horn-Skye, and that many crowd around the 55 gallon tank first thing in the morning.

“Even though the fourth-graders are the ones with the specific salmon curriculum, the rest of our school has already formed a connection with our 15 coho fingerlings,” Lawrence said. “The tank is in the direct line of vision as the students of Cape Horn-Skye exit the buses each morning. Each and every child makes a beeline to the tank to check out the fish and, in the case of the younger students, to say hello.”

The fingerlings require one teaspoon of food every day. The feeding schedule has been divided up so that each fourth-grade classroom has the opportunity to participate.

“Keeping track of the water temperature seems to be the biggest stressor for the teachers,” Lawrence said. “The fingerlings must be kept at a water temperature between 46 and 54 degrees.”

Students are enjoying watching the fingerlings grow and become active in their aquarium environment.

“Most of the fish hide in the corners and then all of the sudden, a couple will race across to the other side,” James Byrum said. “It is cool to see.”

Noted Jaidyn Flores, “We all have jobs to do, such as feeding the fish. I like to watch them. My dad studies fish so it is fun to sit down with him at night and talk about it.”

Owen Edwards enjoys watching the fingerlings grow.

“I am excited to see how big they are going to get,” he said.

Brayden Kassel also enjoys observing the fingerlings.

“I enjoy watching them and seeing how their bodies move when they try to get the food,” he said.

Holden Bea noted that it has been a positive experience for the entire fourth-grade.

“We all get an opportunity to watch them grow up,” he said.

Lawrence is looking forward to when the students will have the opportunity to release the fish into the nearby Washougal River, as well as the coho eggs they will acquire in January.

“We would also like to thank Katie Woollven for all of her help and coordination through Columbia Springs,” she said. “Our school is one of 50 in Clark County, and the only one in Washougal, to be raising salmon with our students. Our goal is to engage students in hands-on learning about fish biology and anatomy, the unique life cycle of salmon, habitat and environmental concerns for all water creatures.”

Woollven is the Salmon in the Classroom coordinator for Columbia Springs.

“It was an incredible experience going to Cape Horn-Skye,” she said. “That school is a great example of how successful the program can be. They were all so excited and such a pleasure to work with.”