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Eugene elementary students release salmon back to the wild

December 15, 2022

Children kneeling by canal

At Alton Baker Park this week, Eugene 4J elementary students bid farewell to baby salmon they’d raised from eggs in their classrooms this fall. The activity was part of the Salmon Education Program funded by EWEB grants.  

Tana Shepard is the coordinator of the EWEB/4J Education Partnership. 

“Students from across the district have raised salmon since October. And this is our release moment. And so, kids come to the park here at Alton Baker,” Shepard explained. “This is a connector to the home stream of the salmon, which would be the Willamette River. And they give their fish wishes and release their salmon.” 

Each student takes a plastic cup holding river water and a tiny salmon which they carefully let go in the canal near the Cuthbert Amphitheater. This year, more than 60 4J classrooms participated in raising salmon from eggs in aquariums. Shepard said it’s a way to help kids understand the importance of this keystone species.  Teacher and students outdoors

“It's a part of the ecosystem that if that part of the ecosystem fails, the entire ecosystem fails,” Shepard said. She says salmon are among many keystone species that are endangered.  

“So that's kind of it's just a great way for the kids to understand a little bit how ecosystems work, what is needed for a healthy habitat, what a riparian zone is, and why that's important and why there's laws around it, that sort of thing,” Shepard said. “And just the impacts that we as humans have on the planet and this particular species.” 

During the release party, students also participated in a game called “Close Encounters of the Salmon Kind”, which takes them through all the obstacles salmon face as they journey out to sea and back to their home spawning grounds in rivers and creeks.  

EWEB’s education grants are supported by ratepayers. The 4J/ EWEB Education Partnership is an environmental science program that supports learning opportunities around climate change and its effects in the Pacific Northwest.