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An Incredible Journey – Curriculum About Issues Affecting Salmon and How to Become a Salmon Steward

September 03, 2019

This curriculum includes 10 hands-on lesson plans that explore the salmon life cycle; the cultural, environmental, and economic importance of salmon; the major issues facing salmon; and how individuals can get involved to protect these iconic species.

An Incredible Journey is filled with 10 hands-on lesson plans that explore the salmon life cycle; the cultural, environmental, and economic importance of salmon; the major issues facing salmon today; and how individuals can get involved to protect these iconic species. The curriculum is designed for grades 4-5.

Lesson 1: An Incredible Journey

Students complete a diagram of the general salmon life cycle before researching the migration of local salmon from their natal stream to the ocean and back again. Students use their research to narrate and illustrate a storyboard about this incredible journey from the perspective of a salmon. The storyboard can be used as a springboard to create a digital story map.

Lesson 2: Smell Your Way Home

After a short discussion about migrations, students hypothesize how salmon can find their way from the ocean all the way back to their natal stream. The class learns that salmon navigate using their sense of smell, and then act out a salmon’s migration by blindly following their sense of smell from a mock ocean to a natal stream. After students successfully complete one migration, pollutants—which interfere with a salmon’s sense of smell—are introduced into the activity. Students must again find their way home, but this time with an impaired sense of smell.

Lesson 3: What’s a Watershed?

An introductory questionnaire tests students’ basic understanding of watersheds. After watching a video clip about watersheds, students retake the questionnaire and define watershed in their own words. Students explore a local watershed online before constructing their own watershed model. Through a series of hypotheses and observations, students learn how water and pollutants move throughout the watershed. A class discussion reveals how pollutants from land might affect aquatic organisms and what students can do to prevent water pollution.

Lesson 4: Ecosystem Interconnections

During a warmup exercise, students brainstorm the plants, animals, and other elements in local ecosystems. After defining the term ecosystem in their own words, small groups create a diagram that shows the interconnections between abiotic and biotic elements in one of six aquatic ecosystems. Using a graphic organizer, students discover the similarities and differences between the aquatic ecosystems upon which salmon depend.

Lesson 5: Keystone Species

Students examine a Roman arch and discover that the keystone holds up the whole arch. Students then compare the keystone of the Roman arch to the characteristics of a keystone species. Students return to their small groups from Lesson 4 to identify a keystone species from their ecosystem diagram. After learning that salmon are a keystone species in each of their ecosystems, students describe ways their ecosystem might be affected if salmon populations decline.

Lesson 6: A World of Salmon

After brainstorming different examples of culture, such as language, art, and food, students write about and draw their favorite family recipe. Individuals share their favorite recipe and then discuss how food is a part of culture. Small groups read profiles from 10 different regions and learn how salmon are important to each of these cultures. After locating each of these regions on a map, students discuss how the migration of salmon has affected cultures around the world.

Lesson 7: Sustainable Seafood

In Part 1, students compare and contrast three types of fishing: commercial, recreational, and subsistence. A discussion about the characteristics of sustainability sets up a simulation in which students demonstrate the implications of overfishing and bycatch. In optional Part II, students use the data from their fishing simulation to discuss the economic and environmental effects of bycatch. After reading about different types of commercial fishing gear and common bycatch, students redesign the fishing gear to reduce effects on the environment and marine animals.

Lesson 8: Salmon Survival

During a free write, students brainstorm what salmon need to survive and the challenges they may face throughout their lifetime. A dice game is used to model the natural and human-made challenges facing salmon at different stages of their life. Students use data from the game to calculate a salmon’s chances of surviving into adulthood. A class discussion reveals the pros and cons of using a dice game as a model and how the game can be improved to better model salmon survival rates.

Lesson 9: Student Stewards

The lesson opens with a writing exercise in which students respond to prompts about the role salmon play in our society, economy, and environment. During a class discussion, students describe what the word stewardship means to them and list some reasons why stewardship is important. In small groups, students analyze case studies about youth environmental heroes and how their work ultimately helps salmon.

Lesson 10: Saving Salmon

Students answer a questionnaire that describes their everyday actions that affect the environment. Afterward, the class discusses whether or not small actions affect the environment. The class then brainstorms a list of action projects that promote salmon stewardship. Small groups work together to create an action plan to achieve their action project.

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on 12/09/2022