South Whidbey students send off salmon

South Whidbey Elementary School fifth graders Devin Degroat and Tyler Boyd give one last look at salmon fry raised by their class before releasing them into Maxwelton Creek Tuesday morning.

Fifth graders at South Whidbey Elementary released salmon fry into Maxwelton Creek earlier this week.

The release was the culmination of a year-long project sponsored by Whidbey Watershed Stewards and the South Whidbey Schools Foundation.

Now in its second year, the project allows students to travel to Padilla Bay where they pick up Coho salmon eggs. Students then raise the fish in a school aquarium, observing their development from egg to alevin to fry.

It is one of a series of marine and ecology-themed studies Whidbey Watershed Stewards and the South Whidbey Schools Foundation sponsor for elementary and middle school students.

The purpose of the project is to instill a sense of how important salmon are to the ecosystem, according to John LaVassar, one of the four fifth-grade teachers at South Whidbey Elementary.

Earlier this year, the students also took part in a day-long field trip to the South Whidbey Harbor at Langley where they learned about subjects such as whales, plankton and ways to help environmental preservation efforts.

It’s a real-life supplement to classroom studies, one which both teachers and students said they find extremely valuable.

Along with teachers and Whidbey Watershed Stewards staff member Lori O’Brien, attendees included parents and former teacher Rene Neff, one of the educators responsible for starting the salmon program. She is currently a Langley City Councilwoman.

Laurie Hatch, a Beach Watcher and Outdoor Classroom volunteer, was also present.

Prior to releasing their fry, the students wrote haikus in their honor.