Clearwater Region schools welcome arrival of Steelhead eggs

“Our fish are here!!,” was a common expression heard across local classrooms as Clearwater Region schools anxiously waited for their 100 fish eggs to arrive on Monday, March 4. Mentors delivered Steelhead eggs to 21 locations throughout the Lewis-Clark valley and surrounding areas. This outreach effort is part of the Steelhead in the Classroom program and is a partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service Dworshak Hatchery and many other local agencies such as Army Corp. of Engineers, Nez Perce Tribe, and US Forest Service. The program continues to expand as two new schools to the program this year, Culdesac Elementary/High School and All Saints Catholic School in Lewiston.

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Teachers attend a kick-off meeting in February to pick up their needed supplies to prepare for this year’s program. After students receive their eggs in March, they care for and observe the growth and development of their young fish until they release them into the Clearwater River in May. Students are involved in every aspect of the process including monitoring water quality, measuring growth, recording data on spreadsheets on their I-pads, and cleaning the tank and feeding the fish throughout the 12 week program. By seeing and caring for the fish, the program provides an exciting hands-on learning experience.

Steelhead are a very significant resource to our area, in all aspects including cultural, historical, economical and recreational. In Lewiston, these ocean going (anadromous) fish coming in and out of Idaho pass right through our front yard either on the Clearwater or Snake Rivers. This program allows Idaho Fish and Game to have the unique opportunity to connect with the community by providing mentor biologists that come into the classrooms and talk to the students about local species that is so important to our region.

“This project helps integrate science concepts at a level that the kids can really relate to,” says Jennifer Bruns, Communication Manager. It’s not just science either, teachers have found many ways to incorporate steelhead into every subject including art with fish prints, math with calculating growth rates, predicting hatch dates and feed schedules, language arts with using steelhead related words to build their vocabulary and much more!  With this program, teachers have found ways to easily build it into and enhance their existing curriculum.

Hundreds of students, in addition to their parents, grandparents and community members appreciate and look forward to being a part of this program every year. Most schools have moved their tanks from the classroom to the school lobby or hallway for the whole school to be actively engaged in the program. Community members get involved to help support the program by providing financial support for field trips to the hatchery, chaperones for release day and even classroom mentor support.

As of March 12, the first eggs hatched! Stay tuned for exciting news as we provide updates and photos throughout the upcoming weeks. We hope you will enjoy learning along with the kids of our community!

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