Salmon Watch is back by popular demand and coming soon to a stream near you!


by Lizanne Saunders


T2his Fall ten classes of middle and high school students in the Portland metropolitan area are participating in a revitalized Salmon Watch program sponsored this pilot year by the World Salmon Council, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited Clackamas Chapter, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Participating schools this year include Grant High School, Madison High School, Portland Waldorf School, Winterhaven School, Reynolds Middle School, and daVinci Arts Middle School.

Founded by Oregon Trout (later called the Freshwater Trust), the Salmon Watch environmental education program educated some 60,000 students across much of Oregon from 1993 to 2010. Much to the dismay of Salmon Watch devotees across the state, the program was discontinued by The Freshwater Trust in late 2010 due to a shift in organizational mission.

Earlier this year Salmon Watch co-founders, Lizanne Saunders (former Oregon Trout Director of Education) and Jim Martin (retired science professor at Portland State University Center for Science Education), Sally Lewis (Former Oregon Trout Director of Development), and other community supporters created the World Salmon Council, a new Oregon non-profit organization, to support salmon education in the greater Portland area and beyond.

As Lizanne explained, “When Jim and I heard that the Freshwater Trust had terminated Salmon Watch, we were heartsick. We and the other Board members of the World Salmon Council are very committed to ensuring that many more children will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of their wild salmon heritage in the years ahead. We have been gratified by the enthusiastic support of the teachers, volunteers and agency experts who are participating in the program this Fall in the Portland area. They are all so excited that the program is back in action. Clearly this is a program that still has legs…or fins!”

SalmonWatch1790-72The Salmon Watch program includes teacher and volunteer training, a specially designed salmon-centered, multi-disciplinary curriculum that teachers present to their students in the classroom, class field trips to see salmon spawning in their native streams, and student community service projects to benefit salmon and the watersheds that sustain them.

This award-winning environmental education program was a perennial favorite of middle and high school teachers and students for close to twenty years. Teachers and students alike have been inspired by their participation in Salmon Watch.

Winnie Yan, who has taught science at Madison High School for 32 years and has participated in Salmon Watch for more than 15 years, shared that her students “got their feet wet and felt extremely excited when they used the net to catch macro invertebrates. They got to experience the awe when they saw the salmon jumping and swimming in the stream. All the students were totally engaged in learning science…The [Salmon Watch] program has had a big impact on my teaching and my students’ learning.”

According to Walt Hollands, a science teacher at Grant High School, who began his involvement with Salmon Watch in 1994 “Salmon Watch made biology so much more vivid and real to my students…[It] became relevant to my kids when they saw these amazing creatures in the river before them…Salmon Watch has made me a better teacher as well…Salmon Watch also taught me how to instill in my students a sense of wonder for the natural world.”

SalmonWatch1765-72The program was designed to teach the next generation of decision makers about the importance of wild salmon conservation in watershed management. It instills in young people a greater connection to the natural world and encourages them to be well-informed and responsible citizens. Salmon Watch touches children’s hearts and minds to help save the wild salmon from extinction.

“Sitting by the river and watching salmon spawn inspired me to action more than any lecture, lesson or leaflet ever could have.”
–Sarah Chamberlain,
former Salmon Watch student, Wilson High School

Coleen Swihart, science teacher at Beaverton’s Health & Science School, who participated in Salmon Watch for more than 15 years, expressed that “No other environmental education program in Oregon can compare to Salmon Watch in terms of changing the way our children envision their roles as responsible members of society.”

Marvin Pemberton, a retired science teacher from Milwaukie High School, has participated in Salmon Watch every year since it began in 1993. He started as a Salmon Watch teacher and after his retirement in 2001 began to participate as a program volunteer. He also has seen the positive impact that Salmon Watch has had on students over its long history. “Kids responded to Salmon Watch…Kids were impacted. A senior girl had a long, private discussion with a biologist while on the river bank. The next year she enrolled at Oregon State to become a fish biologist…I believe students have become better people and better citizens because of Salmon Watch.”

SalmonWatch1705-72“Salmon Watch has made the plight of the salmon come
alive for my son and his classmates.”

–Noreen Drake, mother of former Salmon Watch student

Salmon Watch has also involved hundreds of dedicated volunteers from all walks of life across the state. They have included college students, college professors, fish biologists, engineers, retired educators, water quality experts, foresters , stream ecologists, Native Americans, fly fisherman, and many others. These volunteers help classroom teachers teach the students in small groups on streamside field trips. Volunteers seem to find as much meaning in their participation in Salmon Watch as the kids do.

“I believe the Salmon Watch program to be one of the
best, well-rounded, informative and deeply satisfying professional activities that I participate in.”

–Shaun McKinney, Aquatic Analyst/Fisheries Biologist

The program has long been an effective public-private partnership in education. The program has enjoyed broad-based community support from individual citizens, government agencies, businesses, foundations, educational institutions, and other non-profit organizations across the state. Over the years Salmon Watch program partners have included the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Portland State University Center for Science Education, Northwest Power& Conservation Council, METRO, Weyerhaeuser, OSU Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife, Portland General Electric, and many others.

For many years these Salmon Watch partners have provided funding, in-kind contributions, volunteers, and scientific expertise to the program. The Salmon Watch program would not have been possible without their long-term, generous support. According to Lizanne Saunders, “Salmon Watch has truly been a labor of love among thousands of citizens, young and old, across the state. Together we have modeled for our young people the importance of sharing and living our values. We have demonstrated our reverence for the earth and our commitment to responsible stewardship of our natural world through our involvement in Salmon Watch.”

SalmonWatch1811-72“Watershed health and salmon as a signature species
in our region is a key part of the legacy that we should be passing on to the next generation.”

–Terry Turner, Salmon Watch volunteer and retired engineer

The World Salmon Council entreats the many generous individuals and organizations that have financially sustained Salmon Watch in the past to renew their support for this incredibly valuable environmental education program. As Richard Street, Grant High School science teacher, opined “I am extremely excited that the program is being revived and I again can give my students an outdoor experience that could give them direction in life. With the cuts to education, this is the type of program that is deserving of support because of the range and scope it covers.” Funding permitting, the World Salmon Council hopes to serve many more teachers and students in the Portland area in 2013.

The World Salmon Council is happy to report that Salmon Watch programs are being reinstated in other Oregon communities this year as well. The McKenzie Watershed Council is spearheading a Salmon Watch program in the Eugene area. For more information about the Eugene area program, please contact Jennifer Weber at Oregon State University staff members are helping to implement Salmon Watch in the Corvallis area. For more information about the Corvallis program, please contact Megan Kleibacker at

For more information about the Salmon Watch program in the greater Portland area, please contact Lizanne Saunders, World Salmon Council President, at

The salmon is like all good things.
It struggles hard for its life.
It earns every little thing it gets.
And only a few survive.

Just like the Spirit of the Salmon
You must work hard for your life.
Only if you are honest and caring.
Can you in this time survive.

–Rebecca Allen, former sixth grader
West Sylvan Middle School

May the Spirit of the Salmon be with us always. Salmon Watch forever!