When an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife volunteer or employee walks into a sixth-grade classroom with a small blue cooler, the students watch with wide-eyed attention to see what will happen next.
In the weeks ahead, the students will take daily temperature readings and calculate how long it will be until the fish are mature. They will learn about the life history of fish as they observe the eggs hatching and transforming into “sac fry” before becoming tiny salmon. Soon, the students will take a field trip to a local creek, stream or river to learn about habitat and set these one-inch fish free.
The Fish Eggs to Fry program gives students in classrooms from kindergarten through high school a way to observe the biology of salmon, steelhead or trout first-hand and participate in the life cycle in a hands-on way. It brings to life and reinforces what they’re learning in their lessons. The project also lends itself to a broad variety of additional subject areas, including math, chemistry, writing and art.
“It’s a real living example of all animals’ life cycle,” said Karen Hans, ODFW Salmon Trout Enhancement Program biologist in the Mid-Willamette District. “It’s an excellent tool to teach kids about that part of their biology lesson.”
The Fish Eggs to Fry program is an important part of the ODFW Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program (STEP). While the department does provide classroom materials, staff are currently working to develop a ready-to-go curriculum that comes complete with lessons that are written to meet next-generation science standards and common core standards “out-of-the-box”, making it simple for teachers to meet those objectives. Keep an eye out as these are published over the next couple years.
Several hundred Oregon classrooms participate in this program, which has provided these experiences for more than two decades.
Visit our website and read through our quick start guide at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/STEP/docs/Fish_Eggs_to_Fry_Guide_lowres.pdf
Contact your local ODFW to talk with a STEP biologist about getting a Fish Eggs to Fry program started in your classroom. http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/STEP/docs/STEP_Bio_Contact_List.pdf
Necessary equipment includes a 10-gallon or larger aquarium, a water chiller, gravel, a thermometer and a pump, hoses and filter to maintain water quality.
ODFW resources in support of the program include videos, PowerPoint presentations, and a variety of manuals. Find them at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/STEP/resources-education.asp