NHS/NYCS students learn while working at Naselle Fish Hatchery

<I>AUDREY WIRKKALA photo</I><BR>Students learn about science while working with salmon in Naselle.

NASELLE - The Naselle Hatchery, Naselle High School, Naselle Youth Camp School, and the Naselle Youth Camp through the cooperation of their parent agencies - the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District, and the Division of Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration - are providing an opportunity for local students to learn while they also provide a work force component at the hatchery.

It's a win-win situation, as described by acting hatchery manager Mark Badger and teacher Ken Emo of the school district.

"It is an incredible learning experience for the students involved in the program from both schools," said Emo, the teacher for both classes of students.

"The students take part in the hatchery operation and learn work skills which are put into use at the hatchery," confirmed Badger.

The class taught at NHS is called Natural Resources, at NYCS it is called Aquaculture, according to Emo. In each case, the main teaching vehicle is the propagation of salmon through natural reproduction as well as through the use of artificial assistance of hatchery egg propagation.

This program appears to provide many of the aspects of applied education at its best. The students learn the basics, the science and math, if you will, of fish culture in the classroom and in the laboratory (the hatchery) and then they are able to apply the science and technology which they are learning by performing the workday tasks at the hatchery.

Emo said the two programs have two goals: "One; to provide our students with an education which includes academics and hands-on learning. Two; provide a work force service to the hatchery."

In order to accomplish these goals, each class generally spends four or five days a week at the hatchery with the NHS students at the hatchery for two class periods in the morning and the NYCS students at the hatchery for two class periods in the afternoon. Emo said, "Our camp class generally stays at the camp one day a week so the NYCS students can work with the operation of the trout hatchery which we have at the Camp."

That trout hatchery also operates in cooperation with the Naselle Hatchery with the rainbow trout eggs coming from a hatchery near Shelton. Emo explained that some of the trout eggs are incubated at the hatchery and some are incubated at the camp, giving the students a perfect opportunity for doing some biology by comparing the variables at the two different locations, which might influence the growth of the eggs into trout.

This arrangement also gives the Emo-Badger duo another chance to function as a team in presenting the information to the students.

"I see the kids are learning to become team players while they learn the basic skills of hatchery operation," Badger said.

Currently, much of the hatchery operation is devoted to the taking of eggs from the adult salmon being held in the hatchery's holding ponds.

"Our target is to raise 3 million fall Chinook eggs," Badger said. "We are about halfway there now. The rack (weir) which we used produced about 800,000 eggs. The weir was damaged by the high water a few weeks ago and we were able to patch it up, with the assistance of the students in these classes. That patched up weir directed about 250 more salmon into our ponds. We need a total of about 1,500 adult Chinook salmon, 750 of them female, to get our total egg count."

Badger and Emo estimated that there are about 400 to 450 salmon currently in the holding ponds. They will take eggs from those fish, probably this Wednesday or Thursday. This will be the fourth spawning conducted at the hatchery this fall, and the two classes of students have taken part in each of the spawnings, getting hand-on experience at the earliest level of fish propagation.

"This gives the kids the hands-on experience in the things which they have been studying in the classroom," Emo explained.

The hatchery is currently operating with three temporary employees, in addition to Badger, and the addition of approximately ten students gives the hatchery additional manpower in completing their job.

"Working with Ken and these kids has really proven to be enjoyable," said Badger. "You can just see these kids responding to the opportunity given to them to learn how to work, and work as workers in a hatchery setting. They have been a very valuable addition to our program."

Emo said, "The applied learning which is taking place in this setting is very beneficial to the students. The Camp has a strong mandate to offer vocational education to their students, and this program is providing part of that goal.

"We are looking forward to doing these things in both programs: 1. Conduct feed trials with fish to compare results. 2. Conduct a moist incubation trial study on a small scale using the hatchery as our laboratory. 3. Compare the development of the trout raised in the camp hatchery with the trout raised in the hatchery," explained Emo.

Both men agreed that the program was helping to get students to contribute in a positive manner. The five students currently enrolled at NHS are sophomores and juniors, all males, and Emo feels that the program could probably enroll eight students at any one time. There are also five NYCS students in the program, with one being female, all in the 16- to 17-year age range.

Emo said, "The camp program will continue offering Aquaculture, and it may run year-round. The high school program will continue with the hatchery throughout the year with a few breaks in the spring to study forestry. The FFA component provides many leadership activities for the students at the high school if they choose to get involved in that program.

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