GilroyDispatch.com of Gilroy California
By Christopher Quirk
|Rod Kelley teacher Eric Martin explains to a first-grade class how to release salmon fry into the San Lorenzo River in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park recently.|
The first-grade class at Rod Kelley Elementary School released more than a hundred baby steelhead trout - a species in the same family as salmon - last week into the San Lorenzo River. The release, done on a field trip to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, ended a year-long study of water and marine life that featured more than a month of rearing the trout from eggs.
"They looked like eyed eggs,," said 7-year-old Jose Laneros, describing the steelhead fry when his class first received them. "Like they have one eye on them."
The eggs were primarily clear with one black spot in the middle where the growing fish floated. They became a treasured part of the classroom soon after the Salmon and Trout Education Program - a regional organization that encourages hands-on lessons on the importance of healthy watersheds - delivered them in mid-April. Needing darkness to grow properly, the eggs were kept in fish tanks covered by heavy towels or cloths - students were only allowed the occasional peek.
"They're all excited when they can see all the eggs," teacher Meghan Osborne said. "I'd have to hold them back some days."
When the eggs hatched, the class took fry out to the river to let them go. It was a bittersweet activity for the students, who had grown attached to the fish.
"We had them in our class for a long time," 6-year-old Lanai Garcia said.
Still, almost all students said the river was the best place for the fish.
"That's where they live and that's their home," said 7-year-old Gabby Avila.
"They want to see their friends and their family," Laneros added.
Personifying the animals does not trivialize the learning process, said Christel Morley a literary facilitator who brought the program to Rod Kelley 10 years ago.
"Six-year-olds have a great capacity for learning and they learn well when its concrete," she said.
Rearing and releasing the fish helps the students build a connection with local rivers and parks, and adds an emotional dimension tolessons about the effects of pollution.
It's "more than just the life cycle of fish," Morley said. "They learn about ... being stewards of their environment."
The release also brings the lessons out of the classroom, showing the applications of the year's education to not only the students, but also their parents and the community.
"Along with what (students) learn, they teach their families," Morley said. "And many of their parents don't know what they're learning. I just now talked to a parent and she said, 'We can no longer eat salmon.'"
Christopher Quirk covers education for the Dispatch. Contact him at 427-7240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.