Salmon Learning in Schools: Students Learn from Raising Salmon!

Elisha Gill (she/her)
Elisha Gill (she/her)

Youth Stormwater Education and Wastewater Engagement Intern
City of Seattle

Salmon…in a school?

Schools across the region have a long history of using salmon-rearing programs to teach students about the importance of salmon to the ecology, culture and economy of the Pacific Northwest. These educational programs, where teachers and students maintain a salmon aquarium over the course of a school year, allow students to care for and learn about salmon in an interactive, hands-on way.

Students learn a variety of new skills through the experience, such as testing water chemistry, charting data, tank cleaning, feeding, and monitoring equipment status. As they watch the salmon grow from egg, to alevin, to fry, they also learn about what salmon need to survive during each stage of their lifecycle and the dangers that they face out in the wild.

Salmon are critical for healthy ecosystems and serve as an important food source for both people and other animals.  They are also culturally and spiritually important to local tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest. Salmon rearing programs empower teachers and students to become salmon stewards in their communities and to adopt behaviors that help protect water quality.

A teacher holding a small cup with fish eggs
Salmon egg delivery at St. Johns Elementary School, City of Seattle

Regional programs:

Salmon education programs exist in schools and organizations throughout Washington. Three regional programs from around Puget Sound are highlighted below:

  1. Salmon in the Schools (SIS), Seattle
  2. Salmon in the Classroom (SIC), Kitsap County
  3. Storming the Sound with Salmon, Federal Way
Egg delivery at Magnolia Elementary School in Seattle. The tank is ready for the salmon. Included on the table: Chum salmon eggs, fish food, and iodine.

Seattle –

Seattle’s Salmon in the Schools (SIS-Seattle) administers this unique salmon educational program for over 60 public and private schools within the Seattle region. SIS-Seattle works with the teachers and is a collaboration between Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Parks & Recreation, Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project, Fauntleroy Watershed Council, and Islandwood. The program also thrives through the support of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle Public Schools, and the Suquamish Tribe Grovers Creek Hatchery.

In Winter, Seattle schools receive Coho, Chum, or Chinook eggs depending on where they are located within the city. As the eggs develop into fry, students learn about life cycles, interrelationships in ecosystems, environmental stewardship, and the importance of salmon to Pacific Northwest commerce and culture. Teachers and tank volunteers also involve students in caring for their fish, monitoring water chemistry, and documenting fish behavior. These classrooms then release their fry into local creeks as well as Lake Washington in the springtime.

SIS-Seattle also provides resources for teachers to reduce barriers to participation. These resources include tank equipment, technical support, lesson plans, field trips, handbooks, and trainings. Learn more on the Salmon in the Schools Seattle website.

Kitsap County –

Over 30 classrooms from the Central Kitsap and Bremerton area participate in the Clear Creek Salmon in the Classroom Program with the shared goal of enhancing the salmon population in Clear Creek and educating students on the importance of ecosystems. The Salmon in the Classroom project was started by Central Kitsap Kiwanis Club in 1988 and is in partnership with organizations such as: the Clear Creek Task Force, Silverdale Kiwanis Club, Clean Water Kitsap, Kitsap Public Utility District, United Van Lines, Suquamish Tribe, Air Management Solutions, and more.

Each January, elementary students from classrooms around Kitsap County begin tending salmon eggs, donated by the Suquamish Tribe, in their classroom tanks.  While the baby salmon grow from egg to alevin to fry, students learn about the salmon life cycle, their habitat, and the impacts of human activity. In March, these classes visit Clear Creek in Silverdale where they work with local volunteers to learn about habitat, test water quality, and discover the many kinds of stream bugs that live in local streams, before releasing their salmon fry to begin their journey downstream. Learn more about the program on the Clear Creek Trail website.

In the above picture, students are releasing salmon into the creek. (Salmon in the Classroom – Photo source: Kitsap County Public Works)

Special mention: Tank Talk series –

Federal Way –

Students and instructors are standing on a bridge and smiling for the picture. (Storming the Sound with Salmon | City of Federal Way, n.d.)

Storming the Sound with Salmon is a program where Federal Way students raise Coho salmon in their classrooms, from egg to fry. It is a partnership between the City of Federal Way and Federal Way Public Schools. While applying such core skills as observation and data collection, students learn about life cycles, interrelationships in ecosystems, environmental stewardship, and the importance of salmon to Pacific Northwest commerce and culture. The year-long program culminates in the Storming the Sound with Salmon Release Event, where students release their fry into Hylebos Creek.

The release event generally happens over the course of several days in April or May, when students come to the West Hylebos Wetland Park to release their fry and learn about salmon and their ecosystem from local organizations. Activities include examining macroinvertebrates from the creek, a native plant nature walk, and investigating precipitation in a model of the water cycle. The program began in 2011 with just 250 eggs at Federal Way City Hall. It has grown annually and this year 35 schools and one community center each received 150 Coho salmon eggs for a total of 5,400 eggs. In April approximately 1,600 students will attend the event and release their fry into Hylebos Creek.

Learn more about the Storming the Sound with Salmon program on the Federal Way City website.

Other Salmon Learning Programs:

South Puget Sound Enhancement Group

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Tacoma Salmon in the Classroom Program

Regional Fisheries Coalition

Sources: (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2023, from

Storming the Sound with Salmon | City of Federal Way. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2023, from

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