Bellingham students release salmon fry as part of science project

Students at Columbia Elementary School in Bellingham released dozens of coho salmon fry into Willow Creek in Squalicum Creek Park Thursday, March 27.

The salmon fry release is part of a "Salmon in the Classroom" program taught at Columbia, Happy Valley, Larrabee and Carl Cozier elementary schools.

The program provided 200 salmonid eggs to students, who reared them a classroom aquarium using water from Willow Creek (all but about a dozen survived, according to teacher April Dierdorf). Volunteers helped to keep the water fresh by changing out one-third of the water two times a week, using water from Willow Creek.

Students study the salmon's life cycle and, when fish reach the fry stage, students release their fish in a local watershed.

"We expect the salmon to live in the area for about a year before heading down to the estuary at the end of Squalicum Creek," Dierdorf wrote in an email. "There they will change from fry to smolts as they get ready to live in the salt water. They will live at sea for around 2 years before travelling back up to Willow Creek to spawn."

The school project involved students from kindergarten to fifth grade. A $1,500 grant from Alcoa paid for the costs of the equipment.