Internship Final Report—Environmental Studies 220
Katie Swartz
May 9, 2005

Salmon in the Classroom

The salmon in the classroom internship turned out to be very different than the original description I saw at the beginning of this semester. The internship description emphasized finding the materials for and setting up Salmon fish tanks, when in fact I had very little to do with the actual salmon tanks that are distributed throughout the community. The internship more or less consisted of spending several hours a weekend at the children’s museum, doing educational crafts with visiting children that taught about salmon. As mentioned in my midterm report, this was a bit difficult sometimes because it is hard to grab and keep kids attention when there are mud pits and water exhibits to play with. I was often turned down when I asked kids if they wanted to do projects with me, and often spent a lot of time just sitting in the salmon corner, particularly when there weren’t many kids at the museum. However, I would do projects with at least ten kids every time I came in, and I would like to think that that made a bit of a difference. In my spare time at the museum, I would feed the fish or prepare parts of projects, like wrapping tape on the ends of yarn pieces for easier bead-stringing for the salmon bracelet project. I also made a few little additions to the exhibit, like a map tracing the route the salmon fry would take to the ocean once they were released in the Walla Walla river.

I got all of the ideas for crafts out of the salmon trunk curriculum book, in which most of the projects are geared towards a classroom setting with a captive audience. So, I found only a few that were actually doable in the context of the children’s museum: The Ziploc aquarium and the salmon lifecycle bracelets turned out to be really popular, and involved a very manageable amount of information to teach. They required a bit of running around to Joanne’s craft store to get materials, but are pretty straightforward other than that.

The other main thing that I did in this internship was plan ‘salmon day.’ Which was on May 7th--a bad time to plan such a big thing, being in the middle of the last week of school. That said, what I did for that was advertise it in the WW Union-Bulletin (which turned out to be free, thanks to a nice Whitman grad on staff named Alasdair Stewart) and prepare the Ziploc Aquarium project and the salmon life-cycle bracelet project (Mike bought more beads), and I made little adopt-a-salmon booklets with the hopes that the kids would get more personally involved with the little fry in the tank at the museum. I also filled a jar with 3,890 orange beads (which is the average number of eggs an adult salmon lays and had a contest in which the kids guessed how many eggs were in there and received a bag of skittles and some salmon coloring books as prizes for guessing the closest to the actual amount. I was there from about 10:30-4:45. It was a pretty good day, actually. I made more Ziploc aquariums and bracelets on that day than I did on all of the other days I was there combined. I think it would have been better had I had a helper to run one of the other activities as I did another, so that there could be more than one going on at once. But it was fun anyway. No salmon were adopted—that was not as great an idea as I had thought it was, apparently.

Some suggestions to improve this internship would be to stay in closer contact with Mike. He was not very aggressive about telling me what he wanted me to do or checking in, and I probably should have been more aggressive about talking to him than I was. As it was, I probably talked to him in some form every two or three weeks, and actually probably every few days before ‘Salmon Day’ on May 7th. Overall, the internship was pretty fun and relatively straightforward—hang out with kids at the children’s museum and do salmon crafts with them. A future intern could try more of the projects in the salmon curriculum folder or make up some of their own, to see if any more of them would be appropriate for the brief interactions one has with the kids in the museum. Also, at the beginning of the internship Mike mentioned something about getting involved with some of the classrooms around Walla Walla that have salmon tanks in them, but then never told me where they were or what they might like me to do, but that could be a really neat addition to the internship. Also, I think a big good-bye celebration when the little salmon fry are released into the Walla Walla river would be a really fun thing to plan and do, and I think that will be occurring right at the beginning of the Fall semester.