Students from Bremerton and Central Kitsap released young salmon into Clear Creek this week that their classes had been raising since winter break. More classes will make visits to the creek throughout the month of March.
The field trips are part of a program called “Salmon in the Classroom” that is put on by the Clear Creek Task Force with help from Surface and Storm Water Management, Kitsap Public Utilities District, Kitsap Health District, Air Management Systems and the Suquamish Tribe.
More than 20 local schools participate in Salmon in the Classroom. Participating classes come from both Bremerton and Central Kitsap school districts, as well as area private schools.
The program was started in 1987 by the Kiwanis club to help restore local salmon runs and teach kids about salmon life-cycles. The club gave fresh water fish tanks to a number of classes.
Dorothy Coleman brought her sixth-grade class from Cottonwood Elementary School to the creek on Monday. Coleman said the program helps her kids connect with their environment.
“Some of them have never been down to Clear Creek before,” she said. “It gives them some ownership.”
When students return from winter break their classes receive salmon eggs. They raise the salmon from eggs to adolescence in the tanks before bringing them to the creek for release into Dyes Inlet.
“They care about their salmon that they’re raising,” Coleman said.
Sixth-graders Shelby Biehl and Jasmine Ching said they got attached to their fish, which they had named after characters from the movie “Finding Nemo.”
“Probably in three or four years they’ll come back,” Shelby said.
Jasmine and Shelby said their instructors told them out of the hundreds of salmon released into the creek, perhaps only a handful would ever make it back to spawn.
“It’s kind of sad,” Jasmine said.
Students did more than just release salmon during the field trips this week. The classes split into groups, rotating through four stations: salmon releasing, tree planting, a stream bugs game and a water quality session.
In the tree planting session students split into groups of two or three and each group planted its own tree along the Clear Creek Trail. Allanah Mitchell and Jayda Day planted their own tree alongside the trail, tagging it with a ribbon and affectionately naming it “Shaniqua.”
“It’s to make more oxygen for the fish and shade for the creek,” Allanah said.
Jayda willingly shared some of the gardening wisdom she and the other students had learned during the session.
“Some trees need to get a haircut,” she said. When asked what this meant, she elaborated in laymen’s terms: “Some of the stemmy things are longer than the others.”
To plant their trees students had to get their hands dirty. Digging the holes and filling them in was a hands-on activity. It was clear from the cries of “gross” and “but it’s muddy” that dirtying their hands was not on the top of some students’ to-do lists.
Jayda seemed less than excited to dig into the muddy clay along the trail but did it anyway. In the end she said it was worth it, but perhaps just barely: “I mean, it’s for a tree.”