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Salmon tank is a hit at Mill Creek Elementary School


Last updated 3/15/2022 at 10:37am

Margaret McAdams

The salmon fish tank at Mill Creek Elementary.

In an effort to promote and encourage STEM learning among students at Mill Creek Elementary, the school's science, technology, engineering, and math specialist, Stephen Harvey, gathered supplies necessary to house salmon in fish tanks inside the school's cafeteria.

The process has been a long one, as pandemic challenges meant delays in bringing the experience to students.

"It's been a multiyear process. I actually wrote the grant back in 2019, but then the pandemic happened," said Harvey. "I had originally planned on getting the tank going in the spring of 2020, but because of the school closure, I didn't actually get the money from a fishermen's group and then get the materials pulled together until fall of 2021."

Despite the delay, the salmon have successfully made their way into the school, thanks to a grant from the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club and salmon eggs provided by the Issaquah Fish Hatchery as part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife School Cooperative Program.

"Steve gave us a list of things that he needed as far as equipment," said Dave Miller, president of the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club.

"His plan was to educate kids on the salmon life cycle and the whole nine yards. He did a presentation to the board, and we agreed to fund it for him."

With a strong focus on education and community, the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club hold fundraisers throughout the year, which provides them with funds used to benefit the community in various ways.

"We send kids to camp, we get scholarships, we provide kids with fishing opportunities, and we run our own hatchery," said Miller. "We're always looking for great ways to educate kids, so we put a lot of focus on that."

The addition of the salmon fish tanks at the school has proven to be a success in educating the students, as they can watch and learn about the salmon life cycle in real time and ask questions as the fish evolve and change throughout their lives.

"The main idea behind this program is to integrate live salmonids in a classroom setting that generally coincides with the salmon life cycle unit in a school's science curriculum," said fish hatchery specialist Travis Burnett.

"This fish in particular is important to the Pacific Northwest, and Fish and Wildlife is helping provide hands-on experience into this important family of fish."

With an overarching goal of promoting STEM and allowing an opportunity for student curiosity to play out as they watch and learn about the salmon, there have been many questions from students eager to learn about the inner workings of the tank and how the fish develop.

"The kids were super excited to see the salmon," said Harvey. "They've been super excited to see them grow and there has been a lot of change in the tank already."

This excitement has sparked questions from students as they learn more about the ways the tank must be maintained so the salmon grow successfully.

"There's been a lot of students stopping me as I'm moving around campus, asking me questions about the salmon and what they need to be healthy in the tank," said Harvey.

"Questions like what kind of food I have to give them and what the water quality is like because they had heard that the salmon needed cold water."

Moving forward, students will be able to continue to watch the salmon develop until they have completed their time in the tank and are ready to be released into the wild. When they reach this point, there will be another opportunity for interactive student learning during a field trip to release the salmon.

Said Harvey: "Right now the salmon are in the fry stage of their life, so the plan is, once they've reached the 'parr' stage, which is the next stage, to try and get a field trip put together to Lively, a nature preserve the Everett School District owns just down the road from our school."


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