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Story and photos by Korie Marshall

Valemount students got a taste of what happens at a salmon hatchery this week.

Every year the Grade 6 students get to be part of a demonstration of how to fertilize Coho eggs, and then get to care for them through the winter and spring.

This year the Grade 6/7 class was joined by the Grade 2 and 3 class. Presenter Tina Donald, Fisheries and Contracts Coordinator for Simpcw First Nation started in the parking lot with an explanation of how the female salmon dig their redd in the stream bed, lay their eggs and then bury them after the male fertilizes them. Then she got some willing students to help her harvest some eggs and milt from some live salmon she brought with her, and she showed them how the eggs are fertilized at a hatchery. A few of the older kids seemed a little queasy watching this bit of the process.

“If it bothers you,” Donald told them “look away for this part.”

Then she brought them into the Grade 6 class room where the special fish tank with a cooling system – salmon like cold water – is set up with insulation that contains the cold as well as mimics the dark when the eggs are buried. Donald, Grade 6/7 teacher Karen Doughty and the other teachers explained that it is important to not bump the tank, and Donald made the kids swear to do their best to protect the eggs, and feed them properly when the time comes. One of the students told the Goat the fish died last year, because they had bumped the tank too much, but Donald brought more from the Dunn Creek Hatchery so they could see the rest of the early part of the salmon life cycle, from egg, to alevin, to fry.

After the demonstration, the kids got to make salmon prints, and although some of the kids didn’t seem to like the smell of the spawned-out salmon very much, they all seemed to enjoy painting them and pressing paper to get a colorful imprint, often complete with the texture of scales.

Donald also made a presentation at the McBride Elementary school Nov. 8.