Raising salmon offers students connection to environment, Yakama tribal culture

LUKE THOMPSON Yakima Herald-Republic

Eisenhower High School plans to give its science teachers a valuable new recruiting tool for the upcoming school year.

Several Ike staff members joined a class of 11 for a 21∕2-day workshop early this week at La Salle, preparing them to add “Salmon in the Classroom” to their curriculum. They also gained insight from experts into climate change and how to benefit more from the cultural and scientific expertise of the nearby Yakama Nation Fisheries.

“We’re excited about the partnership,” Eisenhower career and technical education science teacher Robin Driver said. Students benefit “because they’re seeing a direct connection with what they’re learning, so it’s not just learning a bunch of information.”

She said just bringing in one of the six tanks that will be used drew interest from students late last school year, especially those who recalled raising salmon through the same program in elementary school. Coordinator Tiffany Bishop is authorized by the state to provide fall chinook from Priest Rapids hatchery to around 50 schools throughout the area, in partnership with Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group and the Pacific Education Institute.

The first year’s always the toughest, Bishop said as she gave attendees detailed instructions on how to maintain their tanks and care for their salmon after eggs are delivered in January. Mistakes such as allowing the water to get too warm, using cleaning solutions and not taking out infected eggs can lead to significant mortality before fish are sent off to the ocean around spring break.

La Salle has participated in the program the past 15 years, so Bishop gave part of her demonstration at the tank supervised by science teacher Elise Tulloss. The former research scientist with a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis emphasizes hands-on learning, often taking her classes to Ahtanum Creek south of the school, where they eventually release their salmon.

“Probably the main thing that I want the kids to take away is a sense of the value of what we have,” Tulloss said, noting the creek marks the boundary separating Union Gap from the Yakama Reservation. “What we do here matters to the tribe and that is an important lesson.”

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