Maine’s Positive Story of the Day ~ Windham High School in Windham ~
The fishery on Mill Street in Raymond was swimming with hands-on science in late November as ecology and recently arrived immigrant students from Windham High School (WHS) helped Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) scientists weigh, measure, and spawn Sebago Lake land-locked salmon from Panther Run.
The students assisted IFW field biologists express eggs from female salmon that were immediately fertilized by the male salmon. They helped to weigh, measure, and return the fish into the Sebago Lake watershed.
The aim of salmon spawning along the shores of Sebago Lake is to support Maine ecology and replenish healthy salmon numbers for fishing purposes. The late chilly November morning provided the students with an essential hands-on adventure, giving them a chance to see ecological purposes and science at work.
“When students graduate from WHS, we hope they are leaving with skills and practices of science that they can carry into any field they enter,” WHS science and ecology teacher, Lindsay Hanson said. “The experience highlighted the importance of asking good scientific questions, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations in science.”
Hanson continued, stating that students observed these skills being used in a real way. “We were able to listen to the IFW biologists discussing new trends they were seeing in this salmon population and posing new questions they would later investigate using the data they were gathering. Scientific curiosity at work.”
It was also a special treat for the new Maine students from Angola, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and France who all had a chance to connect their learning [of Maine] outside of the classroom setting.
“It provided the opportunity to see how academic language and the content and skills they learn in school are used professionally,” Elizabeth Moran, RSU14’s Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) said.
Moran also said that her students were excited to hold the fish, strip the salmon for fertilization, and help collect data.
“They enjoyed being a part of the actual process of helping to produce the next generation of salmon in Maine,” she said. “This kind of work is authentic and contagious, and it inspires students to learn in a creative and fun way.”
The spawning of salmon from Sebago Lake has been happening for many years and occurs every fall in conjunction with the fish’s natural cycle to swim upstream. In this case Panther Pond from Sebago Lake.
“During the second week of November, we open up the dam on Panther Pond to draw the fish up the river from Sebago Lake,” Stephen Twemblay, IFW Fish Culturalist supervisor said. “Since they can’t get through the dam, the salmon swim up a fish ladder into the fish hatchery. We then separate the male and female fish. Both are differentiated by fin clip class [fins clipped in different areas depending upon the year, denoting the age of salmon]. We do this so we always know how old that fish is to provide the best genetic variable.”
After the eggs are spawned and counted, they are transported to the fish hatchery in Casco where they are incubated through the winter. In the spring, most of the salmon are returned to Sebago Lake to keep up with the demand for fishing. The rest of the eggs are sent to other hatcheries around the State and to other State agencies in the U.S.and Canada as needed.
This real-world experience showed students the various ways science plays a role in our lives. “I always tell my students that loving science doesn’t mean you need to be a scientist,” Hanson said. “There are environmental lawyers, policymakers, and computer engineers working in science-based companies, etc. Pairing an interest in science with a focus on another sector can be an avenue to explore. It is difficult for students to see how science incorporates into real-life situations or see what careers related to science might look like. Most scientists don’t wear lab coats and it was great to see that scientists also wear Muck boots and go fish.”