Students Journey to See Salmon

Students from all three schools visited Goldstream Park last week to witness the salmon run, a natural phenomenon in which an estimated 40,000 salmon swim inland to spawn. The kindergarten class along with Grade 1, Grade 7 and Grade 9 students learned about the lifecycle of the salmon, the spawning process and the role they play in the ecosystem of the park, from bacteria to large predators, such as bears.

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The kindergarten and Grade 1 students prepared for the trip by learning about the lifecycle of a salmon and by making their own salmon nest (redd), which female salmon make by lying on their sides and hitting the river bottom to make a shallow hole to lay their eggs in. The young students also painted pictures of male salmon, which develop pink and purple colouring and large teeth for fighting off their competition. In the Goldstream run, there are four males for each female.

The lifecycle of a salmon begins in a freshwater river, where its egg hatches. When the salmon reaches the adult stage, it journeys to the ocean, where it spends approximately four years before it returns to the place it was born to spawn. Through sense of smell, natural instinct and a small piece of magnetite in their forehead that acts like a compass, many salmon return to almost the exact location they were hatched when they are ready to spawn.

Grade 9 students were able to see the internal workings of a salmon, as their guide dissected a recently deceased male chum salmon. Students saw the gills, liver and brain of the salmon, which was the size of a marble. In the now-shallow river, female salmon guarded their nests while seagulls and other birds ate the many dead salmon. Due to a heavy rainfall this year, the river swelled up past the riverbed, causing some salmon to get disoriented and swim onto land. Spawning salmon don’t eat during their time in the river, and have only 7-10 days to reproduce before they die.

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