Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School hosts We Love Our Fishermen lunch as part of Fish To Schools program

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie during a “We Love Our Fishermen” lunch on Wednesday (April 26) at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides locally caught fish dishes and education about fishing as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. The Fish to Schools program was a project of the Sitka Health Summit. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Sitka Tribe of Alaska and partners celebrate fifth annual Sitka Herring Camp

A Mount Edgecumbe High School student examines herring gills under a microscope. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Goodrich)

Students in Sitka schools have been diving deep into the study of herring during Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s fifth annual Herring Camp. The Herring Camp programming was centered on the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring and timed to coincide with the arrival of herring in Sitka Sound. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff spent a week at both Mount Edgecumbe High School and Sitka High School studying herring anatomy and collecting oceanographic data. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff also examined marine food webs with Blatchley Middle School and will present a “Herring in the Hallways” microscopy event at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School next week.

A Sitka High School student collects plankton aboard a Sitka Herring Camp research cruise. (Photo courtesy of Tara Racine)

Students and teachers have responded positively to the herring programming. Chohla Moll, MEHS science teacher said, “The STA Herring Camp curriculum is an amazing integration of science and traditional ecological knowledge. It illustrates to students the strong connection between the knowledge of their elders and the scientific information they are learning in school.”

The purpose of Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Herring Camp is to invest in youth skills, providing students with hands-on science experience and exposing them to Alaska-based career opportunities. Kyle Rosendale, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Fisheries Biologist said, “We hope students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their local ecosystems and be motivated to become the next generation of stewards for important cultural and ecological resources like herring.”

Students who participated in the Herring Camp learned scientific techniques, gained exposure to traditional ecological knowledge, and connected with Sitka professionals working on natural resource management. The week-long high school camp sessions included dissection labs, discussions on cultural connections and herring ecology, oceanographic and morphometric data analysis, an introduction to fisheries management techniques, career path discussions, and a research cruise during which students applied a variety of field observation and data collection skills.

Herring provide a rich topic of study for local students. Sitka Sound is the last remaining population of herring in the state that consistently provides a significant subsistence herring egg harvest. Sitka herring eggs are shared widely throughout Alaska. Herring are a forage fish and a critical part of the marine food web, providing food for other important species such as lingcod, coho salmon, king salmon, halibut, sea lions and humpback whales. Coastal archeologist Iain McKechnie called herring the “central node of the marine ecosystem”, adding “they aren’t the base, they aren’t the top, but they are the thing through which everything else flows.

Herring Camp (aka, Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo, or Knowledge of Herring Camp) was started in 2014 and was originally held at Sitka National Historical Park. Now in its fifth year, the Herring Camp has grown to reach classrooms in four local schools and is made possible through collaboration with MEHS, the Sitka School District, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, the Sitka Conservation Society, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and Allen Marine. Rosendale explains, “Collaboration is absolutely critical to the success of Herring Camp; we couldn’t do it without our collaborators, all of whom have made important contributions to herring outreach and education in Sitka.”

Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s work with Blatchley students was also a part of another community collaboration on herring and food webs. In addition to working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, BMS science teacher Stacy Golden also planned lessons with Charlie Skulkta, Jr., St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Raptor Center, and a boat trip to St. Lazaria.

Financial support for this initiative was generously provided the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

This year’s camp is held in loving memory of Michelle Ridgeway of Oceanus Alaska. Michelle was a passionate scientist and youth educator. She helped get the Herring Camp off the ground in 2014 and was an integral part of the camp every year until her passing in January of 2018. Her creativity and enthusiasm are deeply missed.

Middle school students can learn to cook in the 4H and Blatchley Cooking Club

Are you a middle-school student who wants to learn how to cook delicious and healthy food? The 4H and Blatchley Cooking Club is for you.

This program is for students in grades 6-8. It meets from 3:30-6 p.m. on Mondays (starting Oct. 30) at the Blatchley Middle School Home Economics Room. This program will be led by Hannah Westfall.

Participants need to register with the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club if they already aren’t a part of the Blatchley Middle School after-school program. For more details, contact Claire Sanchez at claire@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2017-18 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Wednesday. Aug. 16, through Thursday, Aug. 31. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho donated that locally caught salmon can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon will be accepted.

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or email sophie@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

Fish to Schools program seeks donations of coho salmon from commercial fishermen

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The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2016-17 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Wednesday. Aug. 17, through Tuesday, Aug. 23. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho donated that locally caught salmon can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Coho salmon is preferred.

Excited red haired kidThe Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle School, Sitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society at sophie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

Fifth-grade students start their own garden at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School

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Five fifth-grade boys are growing a variety of crops this year after starting their own garden at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

The five boys who started the garden — Kyan Scudero, Bridger Bird, Takeshi Handy, Samuel Jones, and Camden Young — were assisted by their classmates, teacher Jennifer Tulloh said. They will be in sixth grade at Blatchley Middle School this fall.

The boys let student-teacher Julie Jordan know they wanted to start a garden and, with Tulloh’s blessing, Jordan contacted Sitka Local Foods Network board member Jennifer Carter for technical assistance. Jordan designed the garden beds, and her husband, Karl Jordan, had the students in his Blatchley Middle School shop class build the raised garden beds.

“You know, this started as a project for my kids that weren’t interested in band but my whole class got involved in the project,” Tulloh said. “The boys got really into the planting and enjoyed meeting with Jennifer (Carter), who was so giving of her time and resources. They started and followed the garden from beginning to end and took great pride in it.”

“The young men wanted to start a vegetable garden for their school and leave it as a parting legacy before they moved on to middle school,” Carter said. “They learned how to prepare the soil, measure for proper spacing and start their own seedlings. They have planted rhubarb, strawberries, potatoes, peas, lettuce, carrots, kale, onions, and radishes.”

A slideshow of photos of the boys and their garden (taken by Jennifer Carter) can be found below.

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• Fish to Schools program seeks donations of coho salmon, photos from commercial fishermen

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The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2015-16 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Monday. Aug. 24, through Monday, Aug. 31. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho donated that locally caught salmon can be offered to students at least once a week.

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle School, Sitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

FishtoSchool2In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society, sophie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509. You also can contact Beth Short-Rhoads at 738-9942 or elianise@yahoo.com. Photos and captions of commercial fishermen working out on the water should be sent to Sophie.