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Classroom-raised salmon make splashing entrance in Tuolumne
Salmon 1
Students from Lynn Sarrailles special education class release salmon into the Tuolumne River on Monday. The students have been raising the salmon in their classroom since January and have effectively tied Common Core State Standards into the hands-on activity. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

Although there was a crisp bite to the early March morning air on Monday, Dennis Earl Elementary students did not appear to notice as they eased right up to the edge of the Tuolumne River at Fox Grove Park to release over 100 salmon they had raised in the classroom since January.

According to fourth grade teacher Patty Enoki, who has helped her students release salmon for two years, this activity tied into Common Core State Standards the moment the students received the salmon eggs in January.

“I decided to begin raising the salmon because I thought it would be a fabulous learning opportunity for my students,” said Enoki. “Additionally, the Turlock Irrigation District gave me the tank and has been a great support.”

Students were able to mathematically calculate the hatching date using thermal units, as well as draw from multiple sources to read, annotate and compose multi-paragraph expository essays that will be formed into a book at the culmination of the activity.

“We also incorporate literature and poetry,” said Enoki. “The children are very engaged in lessons and excited about learning.”

Enoki reports a significant growth in student reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Students are also taught about the interdependence of all living things and the effect that people have on the ecosystem.

“It is more than just the knowledge that I want them to come away with,” said Enoki. “They learn to think critically and the growth my students make is amazing.”

Also accompanying Enoki’s fourth grade class was Lynn Sarraille’s special education class, which has been raising their own salmon since January.

“There is a whole curriculum that goes with the salmon,” reported Sarraille. “Next fall we hope to go up to the Merced River Fish Hatchery to sign up to get the eggs in January.”

Despite the abundance of learning opportunities that both teachers report accompanied the salmon activity, it was clear as water that what the students enjoyed most wasreleasing the salmon into the river.

 “We helped the salmon with everything because they are getting extinct,” said fifth grader Franky Carbajal.  “My favorite part was seeing the salmon go, and I learned that we shouldn’t throw stuff in the oceans or streams because they’ll get hurt.”

“My favorite part was looking at the river and just seeing how happy the fish were in the water instead of in a tank,” said fourth grader Amaya Lopez.