Fish Eggs to Fry Zooms into Virtual Classrooms
As I walk into the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office, I am nervous, but excited. It is my very first egg delivery day and I have spent a couple months preparing for this moment. Educators are giddy in anticipation for their salmon eggs and students are patiently waiting on Zoom and other platforms to meet their new virtual friends. With coolers in hand, volunteers and educators line up to receive the token eggs and transport them to their new homes. In a typical year, eggs are fostered in classroom aquariums and released 8 weeks later into local waterways. However, this year is anything but normal.
I serve as a Confluence AmeriCorps member with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. Part of my role is coordinating volunteers, delivering eggs to schools, and creating educational resources for the Fish Eggs to Fry program. Led by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), this program engages schools in rearing salmon and trout in classroom aquariums from eyed eggs to buttoned-up fry. It has a decades long history of allowing students and educators to dive into fish lifecycles by fostering Chinook salmon eggs in the fall and rainbow trout in the winter. Throughout the process, students are able to immerse themselves in a unique lifecycle and integrate this important keystone species into classroom studies through the Eco-Schools USA Watersheds, Oceans, and Wetlands (WOW) Pathway.
Our program has received overwhelming support from educators, ODFW staff, and volunteers from Northwest Steelheaders, the Oregon affiliate partner of NWF. Together, we delivered 11,400 Chinook salmon eggs to 29 schools and partners for a total of 38 aquariums across the Portland-Metro region. However, with the transition to online learning this year, our new virtual resources have expanded the Fish Eggs to Fry program’s reach far beyond the state of Oregon. Now, students don’t even have to leave the house to experience the magic of the salmon lifecycle!
Virtual resources expand Fish Eggs to Fry program’s reach
“While this year has been challenging on schools, educators, students and their families, it has created an opportunity for us to re-think how we develop and share educational resources in a way that is more accessible at-home on multiple learning platforms. We were pleasantly surprised with the level of participation in Fish Eggs to Fry this fall despite schools being closed to in-person learning. This just goes to show how beloved this program really is. In a time of uncertainty, connecting with nature – even across screens – is more important and of more interest than ever before.”
Morgan Parks, National Wildlife Federation Oregon Education Manager
With some creativity and collaboration, this program has been adapted for distance learning. Among the adaptations, educators have had the freedom to develop their own online resources that students can use to learn, including videos and livestreams that are shared on school websites, YouTube, and Facebook. Our team has even created a Fish Eggs to Fry YouTube channel so that educators can share all their tank activity!
Video Credit: Travis Simpson/Sherwood Middle School
Much of this was made possible through a Portland General Electric (PGE) Environmental Stewardship grant that allowed the Steelheaders to purchase four GoPros to help educators go virtual and allow Morgan to capture her own aquarium magic at home. Once the Chinook fry are released, these educators will return the lended GoPros so that we can offer others the chance to go live with rainbow trout this winter and start the cycle all over again. Throughout the year, families can also access a variety of fun virtual resources through Eco-Schools USA, including a Schooled on Salmon craft.
By the end of the day, my nerves from the morning egg delivery disappeared. I was reel-y thrilled and honored to be able to provide this program to so many students. While I wish I could be traveling to different classrooms and leading presentations in-person, I look forward to transforming more of our activities into online resources that can be adapted for all educators. I can’t wait to welcome our new Salmon Stewards and dive into rainbow trout season in the winter for another fin-tastic season!