Nothing fishy about Holy Rosary School’s salmon-raising program

Paul Kester, a science teacher at Holy Rosary School, helps a student pour a bucket of salmon into a calm area in the stream.
Paul Kester, a science teacher at Holy Rosary School, helps a student pour a bucket of salmon into a calm area in the stream.

Story and photo by Annie Wilson, UW News Lab

Publisher’s note: Annie Wilson, a 2010 Edmonds-Woodway High School grad and now a University of Washington communications student, says that eight years ago she was a student at Holy Rosary School and remembers raising and releasing salmon into Shell Creek. “It was a fun experience, which brought to life the science we read in our textbooks,” she said.

Coho salmon made a splash into Shell Creek yesterday with the help of fifth and sixth grade students from Holy Rosary School in Edmonds. The students had raised the salmon in their classroom from eggs until they were old enough to release into the wild.

The school has a contract with the Washington State Department of Fisheries through the state funded “salmon in the classroom” program. Paul Kester, a junior high science and advanced math teacher at Holy Rosary, has been involved with the program for eight years at the school. Each year the state gives him 250 salmon eggs, which he puts in a large fish tank in the back of his classroom. Kester, along with the students, monitor the eggs as they hatch and develop into free-feeding fry.

Holy Rosary Principal Sue Venable said: “It’s so beneficial for these students, not just reading information in the textbook but taking that information and applying it out in the world.”

The fifth grade students are in charge of feeding the fish, which need to eat four to five times a day. To help keep track of the feeding throughout the day, fifth grade student Isabel Madath made a scheduling chart for her class. Isabel enjoys observing the salmon between her studies.

“I just like having them in [the classroom],” Isabel said. “Because when I’m done taking notes I like to go over [to the fish tank] and look at them.”

By helping raise the fish, Kester said, students not only examine firsthand the salmon life cycle, but also develop a sense of stewardship.

“They get an understanding that we have to help nature if we want to continue these species like the salmon that are subject to fishing, [and] to predation by other species in the Sound,” said Kester. “So without our help the salmon wouldn’t make it.”

Typically only four grown salmon of the original 250 eggs actually make it back to Shell Creek due to predation, flooding or other natural causes, Kester said. However, he did acknowledge that this year the creek has had a particularly strong comeback rate for the salmon. Kester received a call from a parishioner who lives on Shell Creek, who told him that she had never seen so many salmon in the creek before. Overall, Kester recognized that this creek is “a major part of the salmon growth in the area.”

Venable sums up the lasting impact of the salmon experience: “I think it’s a wonderful experience for our students to get out in their own community. And be able to remember this experience throughout their lives.”

Annie Wilson is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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