By Ashley Umlauf, Grade 4 Class Teacher

For the first time ever, Seattle Waldorf School is participating in the Seattle Salmon in Schools project. This project is a city-wide effort supported by Seattle Public Utilities and several area watersheds, as well as a commitment from SWS to support the project with equipment and setup. There are many schools participating, both public and independent, and this exciting project not only supports student learning, joy, and curiosity, but also fundamental knowledge in sciences, local habitat, and environmental stewardship.

Students apply skills such as observation and data collection, and also experience the importance of salmon to Pacific Northwest history, life, and culture. Teachers and tank volunteers involve students in caring for their fish, monitoring water chemistry, and documenting fish behavior. The joy that we’ve seen in creating a school “salmon climate” extends learning and awareness to multiple classrooms and grades.

Raising salmon in fourth grade enriches and enlivens the Waldorf curriculum, in which students undertake their first blocks of study explicitly focused on the sciences. These blocks, often termed “Human and Animal,” not only look at animals through a more scientific lens, but also the ways in which human beings interact in the animal world, and similarities and differences between the human form and animal forms. Students choose and research an animal, write reports and build dioramas, and take ownership of their learning in new ways. Caring for the Coho in our salmon tank also involves students tracking temperatures, water quality, feeding, and behavior of salmon.

The salmon hatched in the tank on January 19, and are in the process of transition into the swimming fry stage. We will begin to feed them in the days ahead. The fry will be released into Lake Washington at Matthews Beach on April 1! Maybe this year’s first grade will get to watch some return to area creeks in four years…

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