A Grant Street Elementary student wishes “happy travels” to the coho salmon fry he’s about to release into Chimacum Creek. Photo credit Wendy Feltham.
We just had 150 first and second graders from Grant Street Elementary School come out to Illahee Preserve. The kids brought the coho salmon fry they’ve been raising in their class. It was a joy to watch as as they brought the tiny fish in cups one-by-one into Chimacum Creek. And everyone was delighted later when some kids found some of their newly-released fry making themselves at home along the creek! Later, the students reflected in their journals and ran wild during a plant scavenger hunt. The coho release is an annual event, and has become a memorable signature experience for every Grant Street first and second grader.
This experience is deeply personal – the students raise the fry themselves and often even name them. They learn what the young fish will experience over the course of their lives. They build empathy, and this is crucial to a future where people care about fish and wildlife. Research indicates that a loss of empathy is a by-product of the digital age. This may look bad, but it also means that empathy is fluid. It can be reduced – and it can grow. So when children have experiences that build empathy, they begin to care in ways that have a lasting impact on their values and future actions. And when kids have fun, memorable experiences in nature, it creates connection and love of the outdoors that can last a lifetime. Together, we’re nurturing the next generations of salmon and stewards!