A retiring Squamish teacher this week received a special award from two local fisheries officials for her long-running support of two programs that introduce youngsters to the salmon rearing process.
Donna Watson, a Grade 1 teacher at Mamquam Elementary School, received a certificate and gifts for her participation in the award-winning Salmonids in the Classroom and Classroom Aquariums programs since their inception in the late 1970s. Presenting the award were Rob Bell-Irving, Squamish community advisor for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Murray MacDonald, fisheries technician at the Tenderfoot Hatchery.
The programs offer youngsters a hands-on look at the beginning stages of the salmon life cycle, from eyed eggs to alevin to fry to release back into nature, giving students firsthand knowledge of the natural processes and an appreciation of the need for habitat protection, Bell-Irving said.
Watson introduced the program to her students beginning in the late 1970s, when she was a teacher at Pemberton’s Signal Hill Elementary, and brought it to Squamish when her teaching career brought her here in 1990.
“The best research I’ve been able to do indicates that there’s no other teacher who has done this for longer,” Bell-Irving said.
“I just love doing it. It’s a very important program,” Watson said, adding that in addition to science, the program also gives students a chance to write about the experience and to do math — each classroom takes on 100 young salmon.
Added Bell-Irving, in an email to The Chief, “The education program is very much intended to teach and reflect a much more altruistic, more gentle, broader-based, scientifically supported appreciation and understanding of nature and creation, which we hope will be a strong component of the children’s lives, actions and world views when they grow into adulthood.”