The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Salmon in Schools program says goodbye to educator

The Salmon in Schools education coordinator is ready to stay in the classroom

 

DAYTON—Andrew Bassler, of Dayton, chose to combine his career and his love of fishing when he took the Education Coordinator position with the Salmon in Schools program. After four years of teaching local students about all-things salmon, he is ready to pass the torch to someone new later this year.

“I didn’t really know much when I started,” the avid fly fisherman said. “It was as much a learning opportunity for me as it was for the kids.”

Bassler said that serving as the Education Coordinator inspired him to become a full-time school teacher, which is the only reason he is leaving.

Salmon in Schools is an environmental education program that serves students in Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties. The program is sponsored by the Tri-State Steelheaders and provides materials including tanks, salmon eggs, and all necessary permits necessary for students to learn about the salmon life cycle.

The education coordinator position visits each of the 10 current classrooms once a month. Each classroom learns about water cycles, watersheds, and other environmental factors before they receive their salmon eggs.

“The hands-on approach is great,” Bassler said. “It’s a very interactive way to teach something that kids might not be interested in otherwise,” Bassler said that this year, the students raised coho salmon. Because coho spawns later in the year, the eggs aren’t available until November.

The salmon are released in May in local bodies of water that are native to the salmon, like Mill Creek and the Tucannon River. From there, the salmon will travel as far as Alaska to complete spawn.

“We do everything from nature walks to making s’mores during the release,” Bassler said. One of Bassler’s favorite activities with the kids is a scavenger hunt. The education coordinator is paired with an Americorps volunteer who accompanies them to the classroom and on release day.

“Our Americorps volunteers are always great!” Bassler said.

The program serves mainly first through eighth-graders, but there are more in-depth courses for high school students.

Tri-State Steelheaders is currently looking for a new Education Coordinator. Interested persons can contact Executive Director Brian Burns, via http://www.tristatesteelheaders.com.

 

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