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Lowell Elementary classes release coho fry into Padden Creek

Lowell Elementary kids release salmon fry into Padden Creek

Lowell Elementary students release salmon fry they raised with the help of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association into Padden Creek in Bellingham, Monday morning, March 28, 2016. The coho salmon should return to the creek in about three year
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Lowell Elementary students release salmon fry they raised with the help of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association into Padden Creek in Bellingham, Monday morning, March 28, 2016. The coho salmon should return to the creek in about three year

Since October, Padden Creek has undergone a re-routing process and withstood a sewage spill, but this year’s coho salmon fry release — the first for Lowell Elementary School — still went off without a hitch.

Nearly 50 of the school’s third-graders gathered along the creek’s muddy banks in Fairhaven Park on Monday morning, March 28, to release the fry they’ve raised in their classroom aquarium since January. The activity is part of Salmon in the Classroom, an annual project among Bellingham Public Schools.

“We try to bring real-world events to the classroom,” said Liane Koester, a third-grade teacher at Lowell Elementary whose class was among the first to participate Monday morning. “So this is that perfect opportunity to do that.”

Schools worked with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association throughout the project. Wendy Scherrer, a Happy Valley Neighborhood Association board member and NSEA volunteer, hosted the event, leading the ceremony before the release. Scherrer said she’s been involved with the event for decades, first watching her own children participate. Her grandson will release a fry this year.

It was cool raising them, because I got to watch them from eggs to fry.

Julian Herring, third-grader

“This is a window into the health of our creeks, connecting each child, one fish at a time,” Scherrer said. “They get to know the creek better because they have a connection.”

Organizers also noted the release was the first after the creek’s “daylighting” project. The $2.8 million project moved a 2,300-foot section of the creek along Fairhaven Parkway from a tunnel to a more natural channel. Bellingham officials say the project will improve habitat for fish and reduce flooding.

The release also came about a month after 300,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the creek during work on sewer lines in the Happy Valley Neighborhood. The creek was clean about a week later.

The spill provided an opportunity for students to learn about the effects the mistake had on the ecosystem, Koester said, adding that the class had to go to another creek to find fresh water for the aquarium during the spill’s clean-up.

Come Monday, students were eager to send off their fry.

“It was cool raising them, because I got to watch them from eggs to fry,” said third-grader Julian Herring, who had just released a fry he named Fred.

Cora Burns, another third-grader, had just released a fry she named Cedar. Watching the fry grow to become large enough to swim in the creek, Cora said, was her favorite part of the project.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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