Optional: Additional water quality testing equipment and supplies for student investigations to collect evidence whether or not habitat conditions meet salmon needs for survival. (See lesson plans linked to Extension for more specific information.)
Students who demonstrate understanding can:
Make copies of science notebooks and hand-outs. (See Science Notebook Example Pages) Locate a watershed map for the field trip site (can often be inferred from an online map that shows topography in relation to stream channels and water bodies).
Find a local aquatic habitat for the field trip. It may be a stream, lake, estuary, or another area that might provide habitat for fish. Visit site to determine the boundaries of your investigation, and to get ideas for student investigation. What should they notice? Identify another location for a station where salmon are not likely to survive.
Set a date and take care of logistics for the field trip: permission slips, parent volunteers/chaperones, transportation, snacks, water, restroom facilities, etc.
Ask students to recall the stages of a salmon’s life cycle. Write the stages (eggs, alevin, fry, smolt, adult, spawner) as headings on the board, then write “need” after each one and have students list the basic needs for each life cycle state. You may also provide a blank Salmon Needs Chart for students to complete. They can glue the completed chart into their Science Notebook as a reference on the field trip. You can also print out the 11” X 17” Salmon Life Cycle Poster and put it up on the wall during this discussion.
Introduce the term “habitat” and remind students that habitat includes food, air, water and shelter arranged in a certain way. To help prompt students for responses, you might ask them to answer the following questions about each stage:
If students don’t mention air as a need, this is a good time to discuss the concept of oxygen in the water. Salmon need water that is rich in oxygen to remain healthy, especially in the life cycle stages that take place in freshwater. Water that moved rapidly across rocks and boulders causes the air to mix with the water and plants in the water take in carbon dioxide and “breathe” out oxygen after they make their own food. The salmon, like all other animals, need oxygen and they take it in as a dissolved gas through their gills.
Students can do research using resources in the Resources section and re-visit the chart to continue filling it out. Emphasize the “3Cs” (cold water, clean water, all habitats needed for a complete salmon life cycle connected within the watershed and to the ocean) if they don’t come out during the discussion.
Your completed chart may look similar to this.
Salmon Needs Chart
Pose the focus question: “Do you think our local stream and watershed have what salmon need to survive during every stage of their life?” Ask students to write this focus question and their predictions in their science notebooks.
Ask students: How can we find out if our stream and watershed have what salmon need to survive during every stage of their life?
(30 min plus 2-3 hours for field trip)
Tell students that they will be taking a field trip to investigate a local body of water (stream, lake, or estuary) to decide if that particular location in the watershed can support salmon. Review the Salmon Needs Chart created in the previous activity. Choose to discuss or use the chart to record their findings. They can circle the items that they can see are present and cross off ones that are not. In the case of predators, allow them to circle the animals they know live in the area and eat salmon even if they don’t actually see them on their field trip. The last column is for them to record any additional observations or notes about the water or the area surrounding it.
Additionally, you may want to distribute the Water Investigation Worksheet (with clipboards and pencils) and have students answer the following questions in each rotation:
Nursery Area for Egg, Alevin and Fry
Field Trip Preparation:
Provide the students an opportunity to try out the field equipment they will be using, either in the classroom or outside on the playground.
Students will want to go into the water, so be sure they are dressed warmly and bring waterproof boots if they have them. If there is any danger of pollution that could cause health problems (e.g., E. coli bacteria), bring rubber gloves to use when handling the water samples.
If there are several parent volunteers, divide students into working groups for the field trip, and have them investigate different areas of the water body. Or, if there is enough time, each group can rotate through several areas of a water body, or perhaps more than one location. Choose locations with a variety of stream, lake, or estuary features in order to keep students thinking about the needs and the difficulties salmon may have living in those different locations. If possible, choose one location where salmon could not survive (e.g., polluted area, low oxygen area) or complete their migration (e.g., perched culvert), or at least note that salmon at some stages could not survive in each location. Ask your local Alaska Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist if there are any examples of places where people have taken care to maintain salmon habitat despite the decision to develop an area or where salmon habitat has been restored. Before going on the field trip, remember to review field trip etiquette and beach etiquette with the students (and with parent volunteers).
Upon arrival at the field site, give students several minutes to explore their surroundings and notice everything that they can about the site - take note of any dangers to salmon (predators or human impacts). When necessary, have students use their Salmon Needs Chart as they are in the field to remember the needs and dangers. Have a brief discussion about this particular body of water and how it fits into the bigger local watershed.
Circulate among groups (or instruct your volunteers to supervise, and support when needed) as students work on their investigation and assist each group in taking the temperature of the water and filling out their Water Investigation Worksheet. A D-net and small mesh nets can be used to dip into the water to check for evidence of aquatic insects/macroinvertebrates as food for young salmon. Take several digital photos to document student observations.
Upon return to the classroom, have students meet in small groups, paste their data sheets into their science notebooks (if necessary) and share their notes from the field trip.
Ask the groups to decide if their evidence leads them to the conclusion that salmon habitat COULD or COULD NOT survive well in the study area (or each location within it), and if so, for which life cycle stage of salmon.
Give a specific format for a science notebook entry that guides students to make an evidence-based statement for each location, such as:
Based on ________________, _________________ and ___________________ we conclude that _________________ could/could not survive well in this location.
Based on _____________________ we conclude that _______________ could/could not survive well in this location because _____________________.
These statements might be accompanied by a section, “We recommend additional study to answer the following questions…”
Ask students to reflect and comment on the importance of the study area to salmon and the watershed as a whole. Prompt students to share any human impacts they noticed that could make it difficult for salmon to complete their life cycle in the watershed.
Have each student or group create a Google Slide presentation with their findings and photos. They may do a presentation in the classroom to share their knowledge and ask questions of each other.
Additionally, have students determine what could happen to change these habitats from a place where salmon to survive well to one where they would survive less well or not be able to survive at all. (This could be the result of a natural cause or a human impact. Allow students to determine how they could prevent these changes or what they can do to restore the habitat.) Students should add these thoughts and reflections to their science notebooks or presentations.
Human Impact Checklist: Use the Science Notebook Page as a template to customize this for what students are likely to observe on their field trip. Include activities that might make it more difficult for salmon to survive well and others that might help them.
The Science Notebook Pages include datasheets for each of the three station and a conclusion section involving argument from evidence.
Water Quality Testing: (20-30 mins. per station)
Set up stations for water quality testing using the protocols described in these investigations:
Station #1: Sampling Water Quality (water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH)
Station #2: Not Too Fast, Not Too Slow (measuring stream velocity)
Station #3: Macro-Mayhem (collecting, identifying stream macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality)
Develop station signs that show the range of condition within which salmon survive well (or use this information during discussion back in the classroom:
Water Temperature: Salmon can survive well in streams that are just above freezing during the winter, but they must have unfrozen water with some flow that replenishes oxygen.
Dissolved Oxygen: > 8 ppm (mg/l.) of dissolved oxygen
pH: Range of 6.5 to 8.5
Velocity: The velocity of the current of water that salmon can swim against ranges from:
1 foot/second for a juvenile coho salmon to
10 feet/minute for an adult salmon.
Rocks and logs in the streams can slow currents. Juvenile salmon find shelter downstream as well as at stream edges and under banks. All life stages of salmon rest in pools, if available.
Sampling salmon: Juvenile salmon and other fish can be sampled with baited minnow traps and viewed in buckets or mini-aquaria in the field. A permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) is required to capture and hold salmon, so check with your local ADFG office to find out if there is someone locally who has a permit and could come out with your class and show students salmon. Look for local places (e.g, culverts, bridges) where adult salmon can be viewed as they return from the ocean. Actually seeing juvenile and adult salmon is the best possible evidence that salmon are surviving and completing their life cycle in the watershed.
(See the Teacher Background section below for more information about the range of conditions that salmon over which salmon survive well.)
Evaluate student science notebooks and/or presentations for accuracy and level of detail. Students should have included evidence to support their argument about whether or not salmon could or could not have survived well or at all in the places in the watershed they investigated.
Examples of arguments from evidence:
Based on the lack of gravel we observed, alevin and eggs could not survive in this location because they would not have shelter.Based on the amount of dissolved oxygen we measured and the amount of shelter we observed under banks, salmon juveniles could survive well in this location (provided it doesn’t freeze solid during winter).
|#res85||Macroinvertebrate Identification Key|
|#res87||Science Notebook Pages for a Stream Field Trip with Stations|
|#res102||The Salmon Ecology Game|
|#res88||Where Does Our Water Go?||Alaska Seas Watersheds’ Grade 3 Investigation #2|
|Salmon Life Cycle, Habitat Needs, and Human Impacts|
|#res89||A Salmon’s Life Journey||Alaska Seas and Watersheds’ Grade 3 Investigation #3|
|#res90||Salmon Life Cycle Cards||Alaska Seas and Watersheds|
|#res91||Migration Board Game|
|#res92||Salmon Life Cycle Poster|
|#res93||Life Cycle Cards for freshwater and marine species|
Alaska Seas and Watersheds (midges, mosquitoes, frogs) (crabs, sea urchins, clams)
|#res94||Swimmer||By Shelly Gill|
|#res95||Life Cycle of a Salmon||By Bobbie Kalman|
|#res96||A King Salmon Journey||By Debbie S. Miller and John H. Eiler|
|#res97||Salmon Stream||By Carol Reed-Jones|
|#res98||Salmon Forest||By David Suzuki and Sarah Ellis|
|#res99||A Salmon for Simon||By Betty Waterton|
|#res100||The Salmon Story||(An online interactive life cycle) Alaska Department of Fish and Game|
|#res101||Alaska - Salmon in the Classroom incubation program||Alaska Department of Fish and Game and 4 H|
The ASW webinar “It Takes a Watershed . . . to Grow a Salmon” reviews the life cycles of Alaska’s five salmon species, how each species uses different parts of the watershed, salmon-human connections, and recent research about potential climate change impacts on salmon habitat. Teaching tips on use of the information in teaching Alaska Seas and Watershed units at various grade levels are included in the webinar.
For background information on freshwater invertebrates that live in streams or in ponds and more stagnant habitats, see Freshwater Invertebrates.
The habitat needs of salmon can be summed up by “the 4Cs”: cold, clean, connected, and complex. Complexity might be too abstract a concept for 3rd graders but the other “3Cs” are ones they can measure in terms of indicators.
For additional information on using physical stream characteristics and macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality, see this description of a Biotic Index developed for volunteer water quality monitors.
Prior Student Knowledge:
Possible learner preconceptions, misconceptions and instructional clarifications:
Learner Preconception/Misconception: Students may say that salmon “breathe air.”
Instructional Clarification: Salmon use their gills to get dissolved oxygen from the water.
Learner Preconception/Misconception: Students may think that eggs and alevins need food.
Instructional Clarification: Salmon rely on their yolk sack during the egg and alevin life stages.
Learner Preconception/Misconception: Students may think that alevins live in the water column.
Instructional Clarification: Alevins live down in the gravel.
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Construct an argument from evidence. (3-LS4-3)
For any particular environment, some kinds of organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Cause and Effect
Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change.