Hundreds of students converged on Johnson Lake in Kasilof Tuesday morning to celebrate salmon.
A joint program between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, State Parks and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the "Salmon Celebration" allowed elementary school children to get very hands-on with fish.
The Johnson Lake event was one of five salmon celebrations being held around the state this year, according to Fritz Kraus of Fish and Game's Sport Fish Division.
"(It's) to increase school children's awareness of salmon and to foster a sense of stewardship toward this valuable natural resource," he said in a press release.
The most popular of the activities was the fish release. Students lined up scores deep to hand-release a rainbow trout into the landlocked lake.
Fish and Game brought 8,000 young rainbows to Kasilof from a hatchery at Elmendorf Air Force Base in a specially designed truck filled with water. Coho salmon some classes raised from eggs this school year were released earlier into Centennial Lake.
Johnson Lake is stocked every spring with rainbows, but this is the first time students here have helped with the release.
After the kids got to toss a fish into the water, school district teacher specialist Dorothy Gray got the honor of throwing the lever on the truck that released the rest of the fish into the lake.
"It was a fascinating thing," she said. "I didn't even know that truck existed."
She said the next most poplar activity was fly tying and fly casting.
"I heard many, many positive comments from parents and teachers and students about how much they learned about salmon and fish habitat," Gray said.
"I also heard positive comments from people that
this was hands-on science education that truly reflects the type of science that we know is most valuable in the classroom," she added. "When students become scientists and collect and analyze data instead of just reading, it makes a greater impression."
Other activities included a demonstration of how pollutants get into groundwater, an examination of invertebrate life in the water, and a game that illustrates how hard it is for a salmon egg to make it to maturity and spawn again.
Gray said there were 46 teachers who brought, on average, 20 students each, totaling close to 1,000. Students from 20 of the district's elementary schools attended, some from as far away as Nikolaevsk.
Gray praised the state agencies that sponsored the event.
"A lot of credit should go to them," she said. "They put this on for the students absolutely free to give them the opportunity to learn about the environment."
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