On a cool Friday morning, over 20 Dennis Earl Elementary students could be found winding their way down a foot trail near the edge of the Tuolumne River at Fox Grove Park. With their teacher and a local Turlock Irrigation District Fish and Wildlife representative hoisting an ice chest full of salmon, the students completed their good deed for the day by releasing the salmon they had raised into the river.
Since January, Patty Enoki’s fourth grade class has played host to fertilized salmon eggs in an aquarium in their classroom. As students witnessed the eggs hatch and develop over the past few months, they learned not only about the life cycle of salmon but also about migration, their diet and predators.
“I mostly wanted them to come away with the understanding of the importance of the ecosystem and the interconnectedness of it all,” said Enoki.
On Friday morning Enoki’s class, along with Lynn Sarraille’s special education class, were accompanied by Paul Possun, a volunteer through TID’s Fish and Wildlife program, to ensure that the salmon were safely released into the Tuolumne River.
“TID has been helping facilitate this program and offered support for many years,” said Possun.
The release of the salmon served as the capstone event to the Salmonaids in the Classroom program, a kindergarten through 12th grade program run through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife which aims to increase awareness of conservation habits and teach students how to be good environmental stewards.
“I thought that they were really cute when they hatched. They squiggled around everywhere and you could see a difference as they changed so fast,” said fourth grader Demona Isik before she released her salmon into the river.