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Delivering Schools of Salmon: A lifelong investment in wildlife conservation

By Gray Sorensen, Education & Outreach Coordinator with NWF and ANWS
November 29, 2021

This article was originally published on National Wildlife Federation’s Blog and is copied here for reference.

"S o you’re the Egg Lady”, was the greeting I received as I entered Corbett Elementary School on a bright but cold November afternoon.

I had called ahead to inform the classroom that I would be arriving shortly with their salmon eggs. As I walked down the hall with first-grade teacher Yianna Belesiotis, she told me how excited the whole school was for the fish to arrive.

An aquarium ready and waiting on egg delivery day at Powell Butte Elementary School. Photo by Morgan Parks/NWF Staff

“Ok turkeys, who wants to see some salmon eggs?”, said teacher Yianna Belesiotis to her students.

They all ran over excitedly and sat at their desks. After everyone agreed to look, but not touch, I brought the eggs, in their washcloth, over to each student for a close-up look. Then I answered questions students had and showed them my illustrations of the salmon life cycle.

The anticipation was palpable as the students gathered around the aquarium and watched eagerly as I lowered the eggs into their new home. As the eggs settled in, other students from different classes came over to join.

Chinook salmon eggs ready for their new aquarium habitat at Corbett Elementary School. Photo by Yianna Belesiotis

Gray Sorensen carefully places salmon eggs into the aquarium. Photo by Laura Mack
"I wonder what they see?" -Fae

"I wonder if they talk in fish language?" -Grace

"The best part is that we get to watch them move and hatch." -Kai

First graders from Corbett Elementary School

The excitement of the students spread among the teachers as well. Teachers who had participated in the Fish Eggs to Fry program in the past, brought their students over to observe and learn more for themselves.

Fishy Facts and Figures

Fish Eggs to Fry is an educational program of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) that provides salmon and trout eggs to schools for fostering in classroom aquariums.

Students get to watch up close as salmon eggs hatch and grow to fry right before their eyes before being released into local waterways. The Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the National Wildlife Federation partner with ODFW to coordinate volunteers to deliver eggs and provide educational resources such as those from the Eco-Schools USA Salmon Stewards program — funded by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde through the Spirit Mountain Community Fund and NOAA Bay Watershed Education & Training (B-WET).

Schools participating in this year’s fall salmon season proved the resilience of the program. Even though we are still in a COVID recovery year, much to our surprise, the number of egg requests in the greater Portland-Metro area quadrupled compared to those in 2020. Participating classrooms were grateful to receive 100 Chinook salmon eggs which made for a grand total of 14,100 eggs in 141 classrooms at 107 schools in the region!

The exhilaration of egg delivery day was made possible thanks to 29 volunteers from the Northwest Steelheaders, Clackamas River Trout Unlimited, Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited, ODFW Angler Education volunteers, and AmeriCorps Members from Confluence Environmental Center. The help of these amazing volunteers made the program more accessible and ensured the magic of the salmon life cycle reached as many students as possible. Overall, volunteers delivered 9,900 eggs to 99 classrooms at 76 different schools!

Fish Eggs to Fry delivery day volunteers. Photo by ODFW Staff

During this season of gratitude, we especially appreciate all the eggstraordinary people and program partners involved in bringing conservation education into the hearts of students across Oregon.

Check out National Wildlife Federation Oregon’s Facebook page for more photos from egg delivery day.