the lifecycle of a salmon

[this blog post will be best paired with carmen twillie and lebo m’s “circle of life”]

this weekend, i shared a story from my childhood during the van ride to michigan, and it became cassandra’s favorite conversation filler.

she asked me to share it three times this weekend.

so it seems appropriate to share with my blog too.

my family moved to alaska in january of my fourth grade year. the following year, now in the fifth grade, my class (along with every fifth grade class in the city) would raise a family of salmon eggs for the year, releasing them in may. sounds like a great project to teach children about life cycles and the importance of salmon. apart from the fact that the fifth graders were sent (with parental consent and adult supervision) to harvest the salmon eggs.

a few weeks into the school year, the salmon were swimming back upstream to lay their eggs and die (something the diagram above does not include is that a salmon dies immediately after laying its eggs and will be the first meal after its eggs hatch–that’s pretty metal). my class went with a group of other fifth grade classes to a nearby stream with the task of catching mommy salmon from which to extract eggs and a daddy salmon to fertilize the eggs. i would also like to point out that all of this happened before we had sex education. we didn’t ask enough questions.

we arrive at the stream, and i watch in horror as my several of my peers wade into the river, grab a salmon with their bare hands, have an adult slice it down the the middle, then stick their hands inside the salmon to scoop the eggs out and into a bucket. and it gets worse. at that point another fifth grader would hold a male salmon over the bucket and squeeze the sperm out of the salmon into the bucket to fertilize the eggs.

we took the eggs back to school to watch our new baby salmon eggs grow up.


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