Students get hands-on look at aquatic life

Kids follow the lifecycle of coho salmon from the classroom to Kitsuksis Creek out at McLean Mill.

Students from the Grade 4–5 class at EJ Dunn join biologist Dave Clough in the Kitsuksis Creek by the AVEA fish hatchery at McLean Mill for a lesson on the lifecycle of salmon during the Gently Down the Creek program last month.

Students in Port Alberni are getting a hands-on look at how aquatic life lives around them thanks to the Gently Down the Creek program.

“Gently down the creek is a school-based program, it’s collaboration between the school district, West Coast Aquatic, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Uu-a-thluk (Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council fisheries department) and the Pacific Salmon Foundation,” said West Coast Aquatic stewardship association executive director Sheena Falconer.

“Children raise fish in tanks in their classrooms from October until spring and then they come release them at [Mclean] Mill.”

When the kids get to the mill, they get to learn a little bit more about the creek that they’re releasing the coho salmon they’ve raised into.

“While they’re out there they get the chance to learn how to assess a stream. They learn about water temperature and all the different aquatic insects that live in the stream, water flow and just what makes the stream healthy.”

Students get an in-depth look at the creatures that most of us don’t notice—aquatic invertebrates.

“They learn that some critters are intolerant to pollution so that if you have those in a creek that means that the creek is healthy,” said Falconer.

“They also do a forest walk and learn about riparian zones.”

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