It was a special day for students at Crofton Elementary School and their very small friends.
With a trip to Stocking Creek, the students set a class worth of salmon free in the creek. The little salmon fry were cared for and hatched by the students in the school foyer as part of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Salmonids in the Classroom Program.
With continued human habitation and ecological destruction along many traditional salmon spawning routes, the fish need all the help they can get. In January of this year, a batch of salmon eggs were given to Crofton Elementary (and many other schools in the Cowichan Valley School District) as part of the program. Students carefully monitored the eggs and their tank habitat and temperature over the winter where they witnessed the growth of the salmon and were able to be a part of their journey to the ocean.
Last Wednesday was special as it was the last day for the salmon at the school. They were carefully loaded up and a bus full of students took a trip to Stocking Creek. Once there, the students each set about carefully releasing a salmon fry into the creek.
While that important work was taking place, other students explored the nature at Stocking Creek Park through a scavenger hunt. Being careful to take only memories and leave only footprints, the students explored the paths and all the plants and bugs around.
As the salmon made their way from bucket to stream, and scavenger hunt sheets were filled out, students regrouped to gather their belongings and head back to the bus.
With any luck, this fall, some of the salmon from previous years will join these fry in Stocking Creek and start the cycle anew.
The Salmonids in the Classroom Program has been running for more than 40 years in the Pacific region (B.C. and Yukon) and has inspired other parts of Canada and the United States to create similar education programs where school children raise wild salmon and release them back to their home watershed.
The Salmonids in the Classroom Program is part of the broader Stream To Sea Program which is offered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The goal of the program is to help students become aquatic stewards, active citizens who are interested in protecting their local watersheds. Raising salmon in the classroom provides an opportunity to teach students to understand, respect and protect freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems and to recognize how all humans are linked to these complex environments.