When my big girl gets really excited to learn about something, I love to dive right in with her. I find it thrilling to explore with her and watch the learning through her eyes. So a few weeks ago she came home all excited about salmon, I knew I wanted her to understand the life cycle of the salmon, but I also wanted her to learn about the important role of salmon in Native American culture here in the Pacific Northwest, where salmon not only serve as nourishment, but they are also honored.
Our first stop was the library (I know, how archaic of me), to see what children’s books might be available on the topic. We were quite pleased to find quite a few – both on the life cycle of the salmon, but also a few that incorporated Native American culture.
Our favorite book that spoke to the science-side was The Life Cycle of a Salmon by Bobbie Kalman and Rebecca Sjonger. It was specific enough to cover species of salmon, their entire life cycle, and closed by addressing how one can help protect salmon and their habitats. The font is probably a size 14, so we eagerly and easily read through the 32 page book in one sitting.
What was one thing I learned about the life cycle of the salmon? I learned that for salmon, the end is also the beginning.
Once salmon run and finish spawning, they are pretty much spent. They die before their eggs hatch, but hang out near the eggs to protect them. And the dead salmon decay around their eggs and add nutrients to the water that their eggs, and later the fry, can use! Isn’t that pretty amazing?!
It made me think how I as a mother also try to do everything in my power to help my girls learn and prepare themselves for their lives ahead.
Our favorite book that taught us something new about salmon in Native American culture was First Salmon by Roxane Beauclair Salonen. We learned that many Native Americans in the Puget Sound celebrate the arrival of the first salmon each summer with a small ceremony to honor the salmon.
The idea being that if you treat the first salmon with respect, he will lead his relatives to the rivers and stream.
There was some symbolism in the book which was a little over my 5 year old’s head but I loved one section where an elder said she admired and honored the salmon for their strength in facing difficult situations. It led to a conversation with my big girl about the importance of not giving up on things (or people) too easily.
Last week my big girl went on a field trip. As her Kindergarten class and their 5th grade buddy class were learning about the life cycle of the salmon…they had the opportunity to watch salmon fry turn into parr in a huge fish tank at school. Their field trip was to a nearby creek to release them. Once those parr are ready to leave the freshwater habitat, those will be considered smolts and they will follow the water current to the estuary where they will adjust to salt water for a few weeks before heading out to the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the salmon species, in a few years, they will run back to the creek to spawn.
Now there’s someone in our house, who was already eager for summer to arrive but is now even more so. Now that she understands more about salmon, she can’t wait to go visit the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks to see salmon running back home to spawn.
Have you had an opportunity to learn something new with your child recently? What was it? What was the best part for you?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Eva Fannon. Eva can be found on Twitter @evafannon.