More than fish tales

Woodlands Elementary School learning specialist Jeff Sullivan helps fourth-graders clean the school’s salmon tank Tuesday as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program.  - Charles Melton/staff photo
Woodlands Elementary School learning specialist Jeff Sullivan helps fourth-graders clean the school’s salmon tank Tuesday as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program.
— image credit: Charles Melton/staff photo

Woodlands Elementary students inspired by Salmon in the Classroom.

For the past six weeks, fourth-graders at Woodlands Elementary School have eaten their lunches in near-record time and developed a greater affinity for one of Washington state’s most recognized aquatic creature through the Salmon in the Classroom program.

The program is a joint effort with the Central Kitsap Kiwanis, Kitsap County Storm Water Program, Kitsap County Health District, Kitsap Public Utilities District and the Clear Creek Task Force.

“When the kids see me come into the lunch room, they hurry up and finish eating because they want to help,” Woodlands learning specialist Jeff Sullivan said, as he enlisted the help of several students to clean the salmon tank in the school’s library one last time Tuesday morning before the fish were released into Clear Creek that afternoon.

For veteran fourth-grade teachers Kathy Yudiskas and Barbara St. John, the program has tied in well with the curriculum for science and Washington state history.

“Salmon are such a vital part of our state’s history and Native American history,” Yudiskas said, quickly adding that even today salmon play a large role in several aspects of the state.

In addition to learning about the historical component of salmon in the state, students also tackle environmental issues and are exposed for the first time to some basic scientific principles, she said.

“They learn about water quality, temperature and clarity and they also learn about ecosystems,” Yudiskas said.

St. John agreed students learn about more than just the life cycle of salmon and the different species of salmon through the program, which has been at the school for several years.

“It’s the perfect time to do this because they are able to understand that they have a responsibility for what goes on around them,” St. John said, noting many students were fascinated by learning the difference between storm water systems and sewer systems.

For fourth-grade teacher Bettina Stacy, the school’s newest fourth-grade teacher, this year was the first she participated in the Salmon in the Classroom project and the experience has been great, she said.

“The kids ask a lot of questions and they are just super excited,” Stacy said, adding

some of the questions caused her to go back and make sure she had the right answers. “I knew a lot about salmon, so this was a refresher.”

All three teachers noted the differences in what students knew about salmon, which ranged from knowing almost nothing to being quite proficient in their knowledge.

“We had some kids who didn’t know a salmon from a goldfish, but we had others who knew all about them and had caught them with their dads,” St. John said.

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