Alaska Sea Grant

Investigation 3 - A Salmon's Life Journey

Class Time Required 10-15 class periods
Materials Needed
  • KWL Chart Image
  • Life Cycle Cards 1 per student or pair Image
  • Large piece of white drawing or construction paper
  • Science notebooks
  • Children’s books about the salmon life cycle
  • Salmon life cycle posters
  • Scissors, glue, pencils, crayons
Teacher Preparation

Read through the instructions and background/resource information.

KWL Chart Image

Life Cycle CardsImage

Collect resources

Load websites onto class computers as needed

Prior Student Knowledge From Investigations 1 and 2, students should have an understanding of what a watershed is and be able to identify various features of a watershed. They should understand that watersheds, rivers, wetlands and the one big ocean of the world are an interconnected system. Some knowledge of predators and simple food chains is also necessary.
Vocabulary Alevin, Fry, Parr marks, Redd, Smolt, Spawn, Watershed
Science GLEs Addressed

2nd grade: SA1, SA2, SA3, SB2, SC2, SC3, SD1

3rd grade:  SA1.1, SA1.2, SA2.1, SA3.1, SC1.2, SC3.2, SD2.1, SG4.1

4th grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA2.1, SA3.1, SC1.1, SC2.2, SC3.1, SC3.2

Other GLEs Addressed

Reading, Writing, Math

A Salmon's Life JourneyOverview: Students investigate salmon life cycle stages and their relationship to parts of the watershed. They use cards to generate questions and ideas, and work cooperatively to research the salmon’s life journey through a watershed, answer the questions and gather evidence for their claims. They share and discuss their findings with the class, and demonstrate their knowledge by making posters.

Focus Questions:

  • What is the salmon’s life journey through the wetlands, rivers, and the sea?
  • What are the salmon life cycle stages and where does each take place within the watershed?

Engagement: (30 minutes)

Using a KWL chart (KWL explanation), brainstorm with the class to establish what students learned about watersheds in Investigation 2 and how they think salmon might fit into a watershed. Ask “How do you know . . .” to information or claims students make about salmon in a watershed.

Divide the class into small groups of 3-4 students. Have students cut out the six stages from the Life Cycle Cards. Using the six life cycle cards and their science notebooks, students investigate the proper order of the salmon life cycle as well as make predictions about where in the watershed each stage takes place.

Students record questions in their science notebook about the salmon life cycle, or journey through the watershed, that arise from the small group discussion. An example might be, “I wonder if salmon ever live in lakes?”

Ask groups/students to share some of the questions from their science notebooks, and update the KWL Chart with students’ questions. Ask students how they might find answers to their questions or show evidence for information they claimed to know.

Save the Life Cycle Cards for later use.


Exploration: (3-6 class periods)

Using a variety of available classroom resources (books, websites, posters, models, etc.) have students work cooperatively to research the salmon’s life journey through a watershed to answer their questions and gather evidence for their claims. Prompt students to look for predators and note them as they surface. Using their science notebooks, ask students to record interesting information and evidence that they discover from their explorations.

Useful Web sites

This site has easy-to-read information and photos about each stage of the salmon life cycle.

  • Life Cycle of an Alaska Salmon

    Great photos and information about each stage of the life cycle.

  • Alaska’s Salmon Habitats

    ADFG PowerPoint presentations about salmon habitat needs and salmon habitat in relation to watersheds and salmon life cycles. 

  • StreamNet
    This site has a nice life cycle image, salmonid fact sheets, and salmon life history profiles. 


Explanation: (30 minutes + time for reading aloud)

Allow time and support for students to share their findings within their small group. Small groups should summarize what they learned in their science notebooks.

Collaboratively, students should decide on a way to display their findings in order to explain and share with the whole group. Allow time for each small group to report back to the whole group, updating the KWL chart as they share their information and new questions.

Have a class discussion on predators. Ask students about the predators that they discovered while doing their research. List predators on the board. Some examples are seals, sea lions, terns, northern pike, bears, eagles, and humans.

You may also wish to discuss the variety of obstacles that salmon face at the various stages of their life cycle. Some examples are polluted waters, fish farming, water volume or flow, dams, invasive species, sport fishing, commercial fishing, hatchery fish, and climate change.

Enhance and reinforce student research by reading aloud about salmon, their life cycle, and their habitat from one of the following books:

  • Life Cycle of a Salmon by Bobbie Kalman.
  • Life Cycle of a Salmon by Angela Royston.
  • Salmon Stream by Carol Reed-Jones.
  • A Salmon for Simon by Betty Waterton.
  • Swimmer by Shelly Gill.
  • Red Tag Comes Back by Fred Phleger.

Elaboration (20 minutes)

Ask students to apply what they have learned by creating a poster that explains the salmon life cycle stages and where each takes place within the watershed. Students may use their six life cycle stage cards (from Engagement) and a large piece of paper to design/illustrate the watershed. Students may paste the life cycle stage cards in the proper order to begin. They may then decide on the proper illustration, placing the salmon within the correct area of the watershed.

Ask students to share and explain their posters either in their group or to the class. After students have completed their posters, print out the Salmon Life Cycle poster (11" X 17") and post it in the classroom. Ask students to self-assess the accuracy of their portrayal of the life cycle and make corrections if necessary.

Choose games and activities to help students enhance and reinforce their learning.
Below are some suggested activities including whole class movement games, small group board games, and individual or partner Internet games.

A salmon storyboard writing activity also may be begun at this time. Such a writing activity may accompany culminating activity for Investigation 5. See Curricular Connections for additional information.

You may choose to invite a fish biologist or Alaska Department of Fish and Game or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service education specialist to the classroom to speak to the students about salmon the the salmon life cycle.  If there are no local agency personnel, local commercial or sport fishermen, as well as elders may be equally qualified to help.


Evaluation:

Assess students’ posters and/or oral presentations for understanding of the salmon life cycle and its relationship to a watershed.

The following suggested criteria could be incorporated into a rubric for scoring the presentations. If possible, help students develop the rubric themselves before beginning work on their posters.

  • Evidence of the proper life stages
  • Life stages take place in the proper order
  • Life stages take place in appropriate parts of the watershed
  • At least one additional characteristic or trait of each salmon life cycle stage is given
  • An explanation of the watershed placement and connection is given
  • (For example, “Fry have parr marks (characteristic) and live in the stream (placement). The parr marks help them blend into the rocky stream bottom to avoid predators (connection)”

Ask students to reflect in their science notebooks by summarizing their understandings, drawing the salmon life cycle, or reflecting on what they thought they knew prior to the investigation.

 


Extensions

Add a chart titled, "How does a fish compare to a human?" Students can complete the chart, showing how fish compare to humans regarding their different systems, i.e., respiratory, digestive, reproductive, nervous, circulatory, etc.

Find out about obtaining a permit to incubate salmon fry in your school and release them into a nearby stream through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Salmon in the Classroom. Also available through the UAF Cooperative Extension/4H Program: Salmon in the Classroom Program for Rural Alaska

Learn both names for the five types of Pacific salmon.

Dissect a salmon.


Teacher Preparation:

Tips from Teachers

Before the lesson, do a quick review of the definition of watershed, drawing and labeling the interconnected system.

Review vocabulary with a quick game of matching terms to definitions (on index cards) to assess student understanding.

During the Engagement session, use the "think/pair/share" strategy to generate a list of questions to explore. Record these questions in the science notebooks.

Review the new vocabulary before the life cycle cards to help students learn a litte bit about the stages.

If you would like to introduce more information about estuaries, "Salmon in the Estuary" by Kenn Oberrecht provides a good explanation.

To make the Hooks and Ladders activity more relevant to Alaskan students, you can eliminate the turbine and specify Alaskan predators (e.g., bears, eagles, foxes, killer whales, sea lions, harbor seals).

Read through the instructions and background/resource information.

Print and copy the Life Cycle Card Sheets, one for each student.

Prepare chart paper or chalkboard for KWL activity.

Collect resources and display them throughout the room to heighten student curiosity upon arrival.

Choose activities to use for “Elaboration”.

Load websites onto class computers as needed.


Curricular Connections:

Writing. Students may extend their understanding of the investigation through a writing activity (salmon storyboard) that tells the story of a salmon’s life journey from the salmon’s point of view. Evidence of the proper life stages taking place in the proper parts of the watershed should be apparent. The story can be used later to accompany the watershed model activity in Investigation 5.


 

Materials Needed for Investigation 3:

Student Handouts
Items for Group Display

 

Material Items
  • Large piece of white drawing or construction paper
  • Children’s books about the salmon life cycle
  • Salmon life cycle posters
  • Scissors, glue, pencils, crayons
Facility/Equipment Requirements

 


Alaska Science Grade Level Expectations Addressed:

2nd Grade Standards Addressed:
Science as Inquiry and Process
SA Students develop an understanding of the processes and applications of scientific inquiry.
SA1 Students develop an understanding of the processes of science used to investigate problems, design and
conduct repeatable scientific investigations, and defend scientific arguments.
SA2 Students develop an understanding that the processes of science require integrity, logical reasoning, skepticism, openness, communication, and peer review.
SA3 Students develop an understanding that culture, local knowledge, history, and interaction with the environment contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, and that local applications provide opportunity for understanding scientific concepts and global issues.
Concepts of Physical Science
SB2 Students develop an understanding that energy appears in different forms, can be transformed from one form to another, can be transferred or moved from one places or system to another, may be unavailable for use, and is ultimately conserved.
Concepts of Life Science
SC Students develop an understanding of the concepts, models, theories, facts, evidence, systems, and
processes of life science.
SC2 Students develop an understanding of the structure, function, behavior, development, life cycles, and diversity of living organisms.
SC3 Students develop an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy.
Concepts of Earth Science
SD Students develop an understanding of the concepts, processes, theories, models, evidence, and
systems of earth and space sciences.
SD1 Students develop an understanding of Earth’s geochemical cycles.

3rd Grade GLEs Addressed:
The student develops an understanding of the processes of science by:
[3] SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring and communicating.
[3] SA1.2 observing and describing their world to answer simple questions.
The student will demonstrate an understanding of the attitudes and approaches to scientific inquiry by:
[3] SA2.1 answering, “how do you know?” questions with reasonable answers.
The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by:
[3] SA3.1 observing local conditions that determine which plants and/or animals survive. (L)
The student demonstrates an understanding of how science explains changes in life forms over time, including genetics, heredity, the process of natural selection and biological evolution by:
[3] SC1.2 describing how some traits (e.g., claws, teeth, camouflage) of living organisms have helped them survive as a species.
The student demonstrates an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy by
[3] SC3.2 organizing a simple food chain of familiar plants and animals (L)
The student demonstrates an understanding of the forces that shape the Earth by: 
[3] SD2.1 identifying and comparing a variety of Earth’s land features (i.e., rivers, deltas, lakes, glaciers, mountains, valleys, and islands).
The student demonstrates an understanding that advancements in science depend on curiosity, creativity, imagination, and a broad knowledge base by:
[3] SG4.1 asking questions about the natural world.

4th Grade GLEs Addressed:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
[4] SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
[4] SA1.2 observing, measuring, and collecting data from explorations and using this information to classify, predict, and communicate.
The student demonstrates an understanding of the attitudes and approaches to scientific inquiry by
[4] SA2.1 supporting the student’s own ideas with observations and peer review. (L)
The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by
[4] SA3.1 identifying the local limiting factors (e.g., weather, human influence, species interactions) that determine which plants and/or animals survive. (L)
The student demonstrates an understanding of how science explains changes in life forms over time, including genetics, heredity, the process of natural selection, and biological evolution by
[4] SC1.1 showing the relationship between physical characteristics of Alaskan organisms and the environment in which they live.
The student demonstrates an understanding of the structure, function, behavior, development, life cycles, and diversity of living organisms by
[4] SC2.2 describing the basic characteristics and requirements of living things.
The student demonstrates an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy by
[4] SC3.1 identifying examples of living and non-living things and the relationship between them (e.g., living things need water, herbivores need plants).
[4] SC3.2 identifying a simple food chain of familiar plants and animals, diagramming how energy flows through it; describing the effects of removing one link.

Essential Questions:

  • How are we connected to wetlands, rivers and the sea?
  • What is the salmon's life journey through the wetlands, rivers and the sea?
  • Where does our local water come from and where does it go?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Watersheds, rivers, wetland and the one big ocean of the world are an interconnected system.
  • Salmon depend on the rivers and the ocean during parts of their life cycle.
  • Science is a way to help us study the many connections in our world.
seagrant UAF logo Alaska Department of Education and Early Development noaa