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Salmonids bringing learning to life – A teacher shoutout

The work to educate our students would not be possible without the amazing teachers we have here at New Westminster Schools. We wanted to shine a light on one of them who has just been recognized for his long-standing engagement in teaching a very exciting science unit.

Jasper Liu, a teacher at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary, has been raising salmon alongside his students for over a decade now.

The program begins each year with the arrival of unhatched chum salmon eggs in January. As the fish slowly begin to hatch and grow, students check in on them frequently, learning about how they grow, their typical behaviours and the role of salmon in their environment. The salmon babies (called alevin) are closely monitored by Jasper 鈥 keeping the pH, water temperature, and light levels “just right” so they grow at a healthy rate.

In early May, after the fish reach the fry stage, the students are taken on a field trip to Byrne Creek in Burnaby. With guidance from local experts and Indigenous community leaders, the fish are gently released into the wild. The students, now very attached to their little salmon pals, say their goodbyes as they learn about the circle of life while wishing the salmon fry good luck on their new adventures.

Raising salmon has several benefits in the classroom. It not only helps teach students about the anatomy of salmon (and aquatic life in general), but it also creates opportunities for students to reflect on some deeper learning. Those meaningful moments include conversations around things like how humans are linked to fresh and marine waterways, Indigenous connections with local wildlife, and impacts of climate change. Jasper even uses this science unit to expand the vocabulary of his French Immersion students: layering in scientific observations on the fish at different stages of development, and coming up with French descriptions.

And of course, the kids love getting to observe the fish grow up!

This ongoing work has been so popular that Jasper has taken on the task of mentoring six other educators at Lord Tweedsmuir on the overall process.

Jasper鈥檚 leadership in this space has been noticed and recognized by more than just his students and colleagues. He has recently received an award from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for his achievement of raising salmon in his classroom for over 15 years! This makes him one of the few teachers to have committed so long to this program.

We鈥檙e so thankful to have teachers like Jasper in our district: bringing learning and life cycles alive in classrooms across our district … exciting students and playing an active role in supporting and rebuilding sensitive ecological environments in our community.