Evan Thompson / The Record — Audrey Gmerek, left, gently releases two salmon fry into the Maxwelton watershed on Monday morning. She was among 112 students apart of this spring’s Salmon in the Classroom Project.

Elementary school students bid adieu to 234 salmon

Audrey Gmerek knew for months that this spring’s Salmon in the Classroom Project would end with her releasing fry into Maxwelton watershed, yet she still felt sad to part ways with the little guys Monday morning.

Ultimately, though, she knew it was for the best. She and about two dozen other fifth grade students emptied plastic cups carrying salmon fry into the Maxwelton watershed, where they will spend the next several months maturing. Though she left the stream with an empty cup, Gmerek saw things half full.

“I’m happy that they get to start a new life in the stream and the ocean,” Gmerek said. “…I remember the day I got them in their eggs and now they’re going into the stream, and soon they’ll be in the ocean in eight months or so.”

The release capped a project that began four months ago and gave students a firsthand look into the early development of a salmon, along with the ecosystem in which they live. There were 112 students in all who took part in the release, which was followed by a salmon storytelling by Jill Johnson, a longtime performer and storyteller.

The project, now in its fourth year, is run through a partnership between the Whidbey Watershed Stewards and the South Whidbey School District, as well as grant donations from the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club and the South Whidbey Schools Foundations. The grant money helped pay for supplies and equipment.

In January, the students collected 250 eggs from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wallace River Hatchery in Sultan. Students released 234 on Monday as 16 died while the fish developed in the school’s water tank, also known as “The Chiller.”

After sending the state a report detailing how many survived and the general outcomes of students’ work, the school received a letter from the state saying that their returns were good and asked what their process was, said Lori O’Brien, Whidbey Watershed Steward education coordinator. O’Brien said the credit went to the students, whose responsibilities included daily monitoring of water temperatures in the chiller, performing water analysis, tracking the salmon’s development, cleaning the tank and feeding the salmon.

It was a process O’Brien’s son, Ian O’Brien, enjoyed thoroughly.

“There’s always a lot of things you have to do,” he said. “You have to keep watching a lot.”

Ian said he’s now a more educated citizen, though he doesn’t consider himself a scientist by any means.

“It’s something that I like to do because you think of all the salmon that are going to be coming and feeding the wildlife and the people,” he said. “We’ll always have salmon if we do this.”

Gmerek also felt enlightened.

“I learned a lot of facts that I wouldn’t know about salmon in a classroom,” Gmerek said.

O’Brien said two of the main goals of the project is providing students with a chance to give back to their environment as well as the learning about how ecosystems are interconnected.

“Even if we can make small changes, if a lot of people do it, it makes a difference,” she said.

The 234 released also included a rarity — an albino salmon. It is unclear whether it or any of the tiny salmon will survive the next phase of their life. O’Brien said that salmon typically lay up to 5,000 eggs and it is common for only two of the bunch to reach adulthood.

Audrey Gmerek knew for months that this spring’s Salmon in the Classroom Project would end with her releasing fry into Maxwelton watershed, yet she still felt sad to part ways with the little guys Monday morning. Ultimately, though, she knew it was for the best. She and about two dozen other fifth grade students emptied […]

Audrey Gmerek knew for months that this spring’s Salmon in the Classroom Project would end with her releasing fry into Maxwelton watershed, yet she still felt sad to part ways with the little guys Monday morning. Ultimately, though, she knew it was for the best. She and about two dozen other fifth grade students emptied […]

More in News

Historical society to lead presentation about Gabelein family history

Pick up a local phone book. Thumb to the page with the… Continue reading

Langley man airlifted after rollover crash

A Langley resident was airlifted for treatment after rolling his 1995 Ford… Continue reading

Knox Shannon, 8, looks out the window of his new bedroom in the house built by Habitat for Humanity. Island County is set to implement fee changes that would result in savings for the organization, and other developers, in the plan review stage of receiving building permits. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/ Whidbey News-Times
New building permit fees should reduce costs in county

The Board of Island County Commissioners is set to vote on building… Continue reading

Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
                                The Kettles trails were acquired by Island County in 1996 using funds from the conservation futures program. The county is now accepting applications for the 2018 award cycle, but a low fund balance may limit the acceptance of new projects.
No guarantees for awarding of conservation futures funds

The Island County Conservation Futures Program is now accepting applications from eligible… Continue reading

No injuries in pair of crashes

Two car crashes on Wednesday in Clinton did not result in any… Continue reading

Firefighter stops chicken coop fire, helps save Langley home

A quick response by a local firefighter may have helped save a… Continue reading

Photo provided
                                A evidence photo taken by police shows a deputy’s AR-15 rifle that was involved in a police-related shooting on North Whidbey in September.
Review: Deputy justified in fatal shooting

A deputy was justified in fatally shooting Navy sailor Nicholas K. Perkins… Continue reading

Planning Commission member Tracy Gilroy speaks during a meeting on Monday. The commission voted to approve amendments made in response to a settlement agreement between Island County and the Whidbey Island Environmental Action Network. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
Forest practices changes heading to board

Island County Planning Commission voted Monday to amend code related to forest… Continue reading

Dancing Fish Farm to buzz with The Bee Eaters fiddlers

Acoustic concert features fiddling siblings

Most Read