This fall, students from across the province were invited to share their ideas on how to make it easier for migrating salmon to return to their spawning grounds.
Molly Cooperman joined the board of The Adams River Salmon Society last year and created a contest to coincide with the 2018 Salute to the Sockeye.
“I designed the contest in response to the state of our salmon and with the intention of getting youth more involved,” she says, noting the contest also comes at a time when there are changes in the BC school curriculum that promote hands-on, investigative learning. “A lot of teachers are coming on board with inquiry projects that usually pose essential questions which the students can research.”
Cooperman says the question chosen for the contest that was developed in two categories – individual and classroom – was “How can we help the salmon come home?”
She says 6,000 students attended the DFO (Fisheries Canada) program at Tsutswecw Park during Salute to the Sockeye to learn about salmon and she wanted to have the contest available for teachers to promote further learning. It was also available to home-schooled students.
Cooperman says her contest received excellent sponsorship from businesses and individuals, allowing the salmon society to award prizes to top-rated projects.
“Classes were awarded $500 towards a field trip to encourage kids to get outside, which is what I am all about,” she says, pointing out there were more than 100 entries, including 80 students from Collingwood School in West Vancouver. “They came up with some really good solutions and ideas, mostly focused on deforestation, fish farming, over-fishing and a few of them talked about dams and a way to get past them.”
At Shuswap Middle School, teachers Sue Whitehead and Bev Dewitt combined their 6/7 classes and the Grade 6 students created a mural while integrating Indigenous knowledge into the project, showing how people are connected to the salmon and how important it is for Indigenous culture, says Cooperman, noting she and an Indigenous knowledge keeper both visited the class.
“The Grade 7s at Shuswap Middle School really took on the inquiry idea and mostly in groups of two, took one of the problems, researched more and a lot of them created PowerPoints or posters in a lot of similar topics to the Grade 9s at Collingwood,” she says of the contest that was set up to include posters, art pieces, videos and any other medium.
Christine Williams’ Bastion Grade 2/3 students focused on how, in their regular life, they could make changes to help salmon, after visiting the Salute to the Sockeye and making what Cooperman describes as beautiful, individual artwork.
Two “quite amazing” videos were submitted: École Christine Morrison in Mission, connecting with Indigenous people similar to the middle school, and Pemberton Home Learners visited the Salute to the Sockeye on a camping trip.
“In their video, they looked at the importance of salmon, problems and solutions and something really cool, they went back to Pemberton and created a model of their watershed using moss and rocks,” Cooperman says, noting the students of the school at Sun Peaks wrote a song, mostly about the salmon life cycle.
Two local students also created impressive projects: Dayton Massey, a Grade 11 Salmon Arm Secondary student decorated his skis with salmon and Shuswap Middle School Grade 6 student Cole Buckmeir created art around the issue of oil pollution in our oceans and waterways.
“I am a little overwhelmed with results; when I see the amazing things students have come up with, it’s really good, it’s worth all the effort.”
And the contest is likely to continue as Cooperman says it fits in with the direction in which members of The Adams River Salmon Society board would like to go.