Editor’s Note: This story is the third in a series that will follow Kalifornsky Beach Elementary school teacher Bill Vedders and his third grade students through the Pacific salmon life cycle.
It was all cold cheeks, sunny weather and shouts of “fish on!” at Sport Lake on Wednesday, where Kalifornsky Beach Elementary third-graders learned to ice fish.
Students in 22 classes from 15 schools spent Wednesday brushing up on their fishing skills as part of Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s yearlong Salmon in the Classroom curriculum.
The day yielded a healthy mix of chinook and coho salmon along with rainbow trout for Kenai Peninsula students, said Jenny Cope, a Fish and Game biologist who teaches the curriculum.
She said the students caught more fish than they’ve ever caught before.
“We went to Longmere Lake and Arc Lake in the last few years and we kind of got skunked,” Cope said.
While the students were learning about the fish they were catching, Cope said the curriculum tied in angler ethics to promote ethical sportfishing.
“We try and tie in proper catch-and-release techniques ... we talk about the function of slime ... it’s just a fun activity and we’re trying to get students to appreciate salmon and just get out and enjoy one of our great resources,” Cope said.
Bill Vedders said his third-graders have been talking about the field trip all week.
“They were so excited,” he said.
That excitement poured over into the classroom where students spent time identifying the types of fish caught.
“We caught all kings,” he said.
They also wrote about their experiences.
“Every time we do something with Fish and Game, immediately what we do is write about it because they’re so excited and engaged that the words just flow,” he said.
The curriculum, which started with an egg take, will end in May with a Salmon Celebration and fry release.
Until then, the students in Vedders’ class moniter salmon eggs in an aquarium at their school.
“They’re to the alevin stage right now,” Vedders said. “They’re living off the food that’s in their yolk sack and as soon as that buttons up ... we’ll have to start feeding them. That’s an exciting time, too, when they start, they come out of the gravel and they just rocket up to the surface and they try to fill with air.”
Vedders said his students are always wanting to look at the fish.
“We check the temperature daily to make sure things are OK,” Vedders said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.