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A day at the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery
A day at the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery
Posted on 10/20/2017
A day at the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery

If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery in downtown Puyallup, it is highly recommended by students in Puyallup schools. Just ask them and they will tell you there is much more to learn here - it’s not just about the fish. 

Fish Hatchery
Ridgecrest Elementary fourth graders recently took a field trip to the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery as part of the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field investigations. They are part of more than 1,200 Puyallup fourth grade students who will attend field trips to the hatchery this fall where they learn about the environment, watershed science, and how it ties directly to the existence of salmon and other wildlife.

Fish Hatchery
With a green light from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, a partnership between the school district and the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation, whose mission is to teach watershed education, began in the spring of 2015 utilizing the state hatchery, its 80 acres of natural habitat and Clarks Creek which flows behind it. Pierce Conservation District jumped into this partnership too and teach one of most popular learning stations with a game called Salmon Scents. 

“Hands on learning is what it’s all about,” said Patty Carter, founding director of the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation. “Here they can see it, hear it, smell it, and fully experience learning in a fun vital way.”

During the field trip students are divided into small groups and rotate between five learning stations. Foundation volunteers guide students as they make observations and record findings. For example, students use thermometers to determine the creek water temperature as the volunteer explains the impact of temperature on the salmon.

At another station students are asked to read about a healthy salmon habitat, observe their surroundings and then answer the question: Does this stream provide a healthy habitat for salmon to spawn? They are required to provide evidence and show reasoning to support their answer.

The Field Experience Stations are at different locations throughout the hatchery grounds and inside the Educational Center. Topics include:

  - Human Impact on Waterways and Environment
  - Salmon Life Cycle
  - Salmon Habitat
  - Salmon Spawning
  - Migration

Students tour the inside of the hatchery where fish eggs are developing at one of the stations. Richard Johnson, director/vice president of the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation, explains how the hatchery environment allows them to raise salmon and trout eggs in a controlled temperature where there are no predators or pollution.

Next, students head outside to get a hands-on experience feeding the young trout which are continuing to grow in the circular ponds. When big enough these trout will be released into area lakes for fishing.

After two hours, which seems to pass very quickly, students board the school bus to return to their classroom where they will continue the lessons they learned during the field trip. They will write essays, using argument/explanation to explain why clean water is important to the life cycle of salmon.  Students will also talk about designing eco-friendly dams, and they will share with others all the important things they discovered at the hatchery.

The public is invited to visit the hatchery daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. The five large colorful signs used for the fourth grade program provide information that visitors can enjoy too.  

A Salmon Homecoming Celebration is held here the first Saturday in October each year. This community event celebrates the return of salmon to Clark’s Creek to spawn and is also sponsored by the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation with several co-partners.

“This once hidden treasure is becoming a true benefit to Puyallup in so many ways, and I can tell you from my time spent with these amazing young students their trip to the Puyallup Fish Hatchery for field studies will be a childhood experience they will remember and talk about long after they are grown.”
Patty Carter, founding director of the Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation


Nancy French