Lessons: Energy

Where are the Salmonids?

Respect Rule: Look, Listen, Learn, and Leave Alone (until instructed).


For thousands of years salmonids have migrated from the ocean back to the rivers and streams of California to lay their eggs. However, during the last fifty years the salmonids population in California has declined due to habitat loss. “Impoundments, land-use activities, water development and diversions have changed virtually all the streams with in this watershed, eliminating much of the historic spawning and rearing habitat. Dam construction and water diversion dried much of the San Joaquin River.” (U.S. army Corps of Engineers) Fortunately, increased awareness has contributed to healthier river environments and by working together communities can restore a sustainable and healthy watershed.

Before-the-Field-Trip Activity

Activity: Plight of the Salmon
Time: 1 hour
Materials: Word Match-Up Student Work­sheet and Answer Key, Key Words Student Worksheet, Plight of the Salmon Newslwtter Activities: Finding Fish Facts, Migration and Its Challenges, Create a Salmonid Life Cycle, Plight of the Salmon newsletter

  1. Distribute the Word Match-Up Student Worksheet as a pre-assessment. Remind students this is not a graded test, but rather a measure of success; each student will retake the same assessment after the field trip experience. (Note: Save these completed assessments and redistribute after the field experience. Students can change their answers based on what they have learned.)
  2. Distribute Plight of the Salmon newsletter to each student. Students can work in teams. Teams may be used on the field experience, as well as pairs or individuals, to complete the reading of the newsletter.
  3. Assign each student one of the three student worksheet activities: Finding Fish Facts, Migration and Its Challenges, Create a Salmonid Life Cycle. Have students complete worksheets using the Key Words Student Worksheet.
  4. Review students’ answers and relate these concepts to lessons already covered.

Field-Trip Activity

Activity: Tour Salmon Habitat
1 Hour
Materials: None

  1. Tour the habitat of the salmon or trout and/or hatchery.
  2. Encourage students to ask questions.

After-the-Field-Trip Activity

Activity: Evaluate Your Perception
Time: 1 Hour
Materials: Key Word Match-Up Student Worksheet from the Before-the-Field Trip Activity

  1. Distribute Key Word Match-Up Worksheet and have students complete as a post-assessment.
  2. Discuss prior knowledge compared with present knowledge of the plight of the salmoninds. What misconceptions were present prior to this study? How is this new knowledge going to make them better stewards of their environment?


  1. After learning about chinook salmon and steelhead, students can begin to brainstorm stewardship projects in their local areas for stream protection.
  2. Students can create life-cycle mobiles of the salmon to understand habitat requirements at all stages of life for anadromous fish.
  3. Students can create life-sized drawings of the chinook salmon and steelhead trout to illustrate the differences in size and appearance of each species.
  4. Students can conduct an investigation of other threatened or endangered salmon species. Compare and contrast the challenges and behaviors that need to be addressed to conserve these species.


Students will use the Plight of the Salmon newsletter to complete several activity sheets as background information for their study of fish population issues, habitat requirements, life cycle and stewardship projects.

Grade Levels


Adult/Student Ratio

Full class (student teams)


Before and After the Field Trip lessons in the classroom; Field Trip in November-December below the reservoirs of major rivers, or a fish hatchery


Reading comprehension, discussing, observing, drawing conclusions, cooperative problem solving, recording

Key Words

Adaptation, Alevin, Anadromous, Ecosystem, Estuary, Fry, Habitat, Migrate, Redd, Riparian, Salmonid, Smolt, Spawn, Stewardship, Terrestrial, Tributary, Watershed

Downloads [PDF]



Adapted with permission from New Hogan Lake Monitoring Stream Health education guide, Tricia Corsetti, Tomales Middle School, Christie Denzel Anastasia, National Park Service.

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