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Students set salmon on two-year journey
By PAUL BALCERAK
For students at PineCrest Elementary, it was a field trip. For a handful of young salmon, however, Monday afternoon was the start of a two-year roundtrip to the ocean and back.
This is so sad were letting them all go! fifth-grader Natalie said facetiously as she and her classmates released the salmon into Clear Creek.
The annual ritual of sorts is all part of the Central Kitsap Kiwanis Clubs Salmon in the Classroom project. The project starts each year with kids raising salmon in fish tanks in their classrooms and ends with the release of the salmon and a few other enviro-friendly activities on Clear Creek Trail.
The goal is to try to get the people to appreciate the environment, especially at a young age, Kiwanis Club member and project co-founder Sam Holcomb said.
The program is at its apex right now. Since March 11 and until April 11, students will be releasing salmon, planting trees and getting up to speed on how to be good stewards of mother nature.
The advice they get will be some of the best available, too, as theyre guided by local experts and Kiwanis members some of whom have been guiding the project for many of its 20 years.
Clear Creek is unique theres nothing like it, Day explained to his audience as he explained the process of salmon leaving the stream for the ocean and returning.
As the salmon are transferred from their fish tank at PineCrest into a bucket and then into Clear Creek, they learn their new waters and memorize them for the return trip. In two years, after some of them have made it as far north as Alaska, theyll return to Clear Creek specifically not any other stream and spawn.
Its just amazing how they do it, Day said.
Day has been working with the Kiwanis Club on the project for 20 years. He and Holcomb have seen the program evolve over the last two decades and are now privy to a generation that knows more than ever about environmental issues.
It is changing, Holcomb said. More and more young kids know about (environmentalism).
Theres a lot more awareness that we need to protect our aquatic resources.
Its not just kids.
Its amazing, you know, were reaching a lot of parents, too, Holcomb said.
Some of those parents are ones who participated in Salmon in the Classroom as kids and are now taking their kids on the trip.
The length of the program may be a testament to its popularity among the kids.
Since taking over stewardship of the project at his school about seven years ago, Steve Robinson, fifth grade teacher at PineCrest Elementary, has been branded the salmon guy.
Its something they look forward to once theyre in my class because like I said, Im the salmon guy, Robinson said.
PineCrests Monday field trip also afforded kids an opportunity to learn about water quality and the effects trees can have on streams and watersheds.
When you plant trees along the watershed of Clear Creek, youre helping to keep all of this sand and dirt out of it, Day said at one point, pointing out how trashed the creek was.
Salmon like to spawn in loose gravel and pebbles.
While the kids may or may not catch on to some of the bigger themes organizers try to promote, they do get exposed to the idea of environmentalism and thats what the projects aim is.
Holcomb would just like for the next generation of city planners and developers to think before they act.
What I like to close it out with is, if weve changed everything that fast in 200 years, imagine what its going to be like in 100 years when your children, grandchildren are here, he said.