At K-Beach elementary school, one of their "kick-off" units for 6th grade deals directly with the Kenai River watershed and the life cycle of the salmon, according to Terry Carter, a teacher at K-Beach that heads up the unit. "We do an in depth investigation and study of all the dynamics of the watershed and the Kenai River, of the lifecycle of the salmon, and the interdependency of the people and the habitat and the resources upon one another," explained Carter. As the group of 6th graders has been doing their investigation this fall, one of the purposes they have been given in gathering the information is the education of the general public, "One of the unique aspects of our community is that 85-90% of our children were born and raised here, while 85-90% of the adults in this community have come from elsewhere. So these children have a unique perspective to offer to those adults. This is their place, this is their point of reference, and as a result of that they have a connection that is very critical, it's part of who they are and as they learn this information there is a lot of incentive and a lot of purpose that comes from knowing what they learn can be shared with other people," added Carter.
Some of the students were interviewed on KSRM radio recently as part of their public information campaign, they have also prepared radio scripts that they plan to record and air over public radio stations on the Kenai Peninsula. "I learned that only a small percentage of salmon survive to spawn and that's really critical because if all the spawners were killed we wouldn't have any more fish and our watershed would be ruined. This is really interesting stuff, and when I eat a salmon now it's really a lot different and when I see erosion happening and the river banks getting torn apart I know how important it is to really take better care of what's happening," said Bryson Winslow.
"We went down to Slikock Creek with Ms. Carter a couple of weeks ago and saw all the different fish and what happens, we saw dead spawners all over, it was very weird," said Brittnay Walters. "Erosion has a big impact on the fish because if people step on the banks and kill the vegetation on them the bank breaks free and a lot of the fry are killed from the break off. People trampling the banks are the main cause of this, but there are natural causes of erosion as well," said Kraig Mims. The students also took a raft trip down the Kenai River as part of the unit, "It made a big difference to be there in the real life watershed, it was like we were in their home, and we really need to take care of the resource for the fish and for us," said Mariesha Derkevorkian.
The curriculum at K-Beach has been featured in an article in Newsweek magazine and has been nominated for several awards. Some students that took the unit in 6th grade are now in high school and are working on projects to enter in the Caring For the Kenai environmental awareness contest next spring. The unit lasts the entire fall quarter and is integrated with several other curriculums, such as economics, social studies and science.
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