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Skagway School Hatchery Involvement

Frank Pickett

Type of Entry:

  • Project

Type of Activity:

  • hands-on activity
  • simulation
  • inquiry lab
  • authentic assessment
  • group/cooperative learning
  • community outreach/off-site activity
  • review/reinforcement

Target Audience:

  • Biology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Genetics, Biotechnology
  • Life Science
  • Integrated Science (all levels)
  • Vocational Students

Notes to Teacher:

Be willing to spend a lot of time to address the needs of a variety of students. Be willing to do large amounts of paperwork and other communications to keep state, city, school board, administrators, parents, and others informed and happy with the progress in their area of interest, knowing that there will be ups and downs. Explore all possible sources of help for information, funding, and support. Keep a smile on your face and be concerned about the students. This is really what education is about.

Required of students:

Students may be in the program three years. Ninth grade is the only year excluded at the present. Second year students make a commitment to help as group leaders and trainers. Third year students become assistant managers and have a senior project to design and complete. They need to begin the design and paperwork during the last part of their junior year. An interest is the only requirement to enter the program, but commitment and a proven track record are required for continuance.

Preparation time needed:

Impossible question to answer. You have to be flexible and adaptable. My background is in Biology. I had no fisheries classes before coming to Skagway. My predecessor trained me for a few weeks before leaving me on my own. I was given a lot of help by Fish & Game the first few years and they are still available as needed.

Class time needed:

Daily time of 15-20 minutes on the average to clean rearing ponds and feed fish. Some activities during the year require 4-8 hour commitments for one or two days. Other specific in class projects requiring 1-3 class periods can be provided as requested.


In 1979 Pullen Creek in Skagway, Alaska, was designated an area meriting special attention as part of the Coastal Management Plan in Alaska. As part of the long range plan, the Skagway School system was given a Scientific Education Permit to operate a hatchery. Pink Salmon were chosen because they have a two year cycle from eggs to returning adults. If eggs or alevin (developmental stage between egg and fry) could be put in the stream, then a hatchery could be built during the two years between plants and returning adults. With a legislative grant of $30,000 and help from many, many other groups, the rest is history.

Three small buildings, the biggest @ 12' by 26', now make up the hatchery. All work is done by 6-18 students and the hatchery manager/instructor who teaches this class one period a day in addition to physics/chemistry alternating years, physical science, marine biology, biology, and another class which varies each year.

Activities, as already mentioned, are only limited by time, funds, interest, and support. Grants have been applied for and received several times. For three of my six years, we have sent a student to intern at a state hatchery for all three summer months. They were paid, given room and board, and had the advantage of being exposed to a variety of activities going on during the summer, not just entry level manual labor. We are involved with fin clipping and coded-wire tagging all fish released from our hatchery. Information on curriculum, history, or activities can be obtained by contacting Frank Pickett at one of the following addresses or phone numbers:

school: Hatchery Instructor PO Box 497 Skagway, Alaska 99840 907-983-2960

hatchery: Hatchery Manager PO Box 415 Skagway, Alaska 998440 907-983-2571 hatchery 907-983-2297 city offices


What question does this activity help students to answer?

Students are given the opportunity to use what they are learning in their other academic courses, as well as in the hatchery class. Each week, some days are spent in class learning new materials. The State of Alaska Fish & Game Fish Culture Manual is one of many texts we have available to learn from. Each week other days are spent in the field or at the hatchery using what we are learning. Adult salmon are captured with either a seine net or weir. Eggs are taken and fertilized. These eggs are incubated, then reared until release up to 21 months after the initial egg take. Communication, politics, responsibility, leadership, ecology, math, paperwork, physiology; whatever avenue choosen to focus on can be explored. The main question is what the student wants from the class. Students can research diseases or plant willow bundles to restore a stream bank. They can write to the Fish & Game commissioner for our yearly Scientific Education Permit or give tours to people wanting to find out about salmon life cycles.


I realize the great, unique advantage I have by being in my present. Not many school districts can raise salmon for 18 months. I will be glad to share data, as I am able and time allows, so that others may do simulation activities or crunch some real numbers. I do think that an activity like this can be found in any area that is specific to the nature around, even if it is not to the scale we have done. I read one article about high schools in New York state that raise talapia as part of the New York State Agricultural Technology Preparation (Agritech Prep) 2000 program. Many schools build botanical gardens on their school grounds or adjacent property. You can even purchase ecological or environmental chambers from numerous scientific supply catalogues that would allow you to culture in your classrooms. Our activity is an example of something that has functioned for over 15 years and has the potential to benefit a wide variety of people, especially the students.

Materials needed:

  • Permission from regulatory agencies. In our situation, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. We apply each year for a permit to be a Scientific/Education Facility.

  • Land or right of way on some land. A local corporation, White Pass Alaska, has given us permission to put the hatchery at a natural spring on their land about ten blocks from the school.

  • Funds. Funding has come from a variety of sources. I am in the process of expanding my base as city, school, and other governmental tax based sources get tighter.

A variety of aquaculture equipment, depending on your involvement. A list of possible suppliers follows.

Memphis Net & Twine Co., Inc. 2481 Matthews Ave. P.O. Box 8331 Memphis, Tennessee 38108

Forestry Suppliers, Inc. P.O. Box 8397 Jackson, Ms. 39284-8397

Finn Strong Designs River Tank Systems P.O. Box 445 Exeter, Rhode Island 02822

Argent Chemical Laboratories 8702 152nd Avenue N.E. Redmond, Wa. 98052

Bio Products, Inc. 1935 N.W. Warrenton Dr. Warrenton, Ore. 97146

J.L. Eager, Inc. P.O. Box 540476 526 No. 700 W. North Salt Lake, Utah 84054


Follow curriculum guidelines for hatchery class at Skagway City School District which include, but are not limited to, the following basic continuing activities. The students' exposure to increased biological and environmental awareness and responsibility is always the main focus.

  • In class studies of all species of Pacific Salmon, their culturing, all related materials, commercial uses, and environmental concerns of marine, fresh water, and estuary habitats with emphasis on Alaska.

  • Continued rearing of last year's fry.

  • Capture adults returning to Pullen Creek using seine net or weir. Possible species: Pink, Coho, Chinook.

  • Fertilize eggs.

  • Incubate fertilized eggs in Heath trays until ponding.

  • Monitor feed, health, and growth of fish until their release.

  • Process paperwork necessary for continuance of program. This includes permitting, public relations, and other correspondence.

Method of Assessment/Evaluation

  • Most work is done on a group basis. A daily grade from 0-10 is recorded for each student by the teacher on the basis of participation and attitude.

  • Tests of materials studied or procedures used are given periodically.

  • An essay is required each semester.

Extension/Reinforcement/Additional Ideas

This class is one of the most popular classes at our school. We are wide open as to what we can study. Field trips are always motivational in any educational setting. Watching your eggs develop, knowing that they will return 2-6 years later anywhere from 3 to 45 lbs. is an experience most students don't have the opportunity to participate in.

If this project were discontinued or became larger than our school could handle, which is often an area of debate, many would be disappointed. I have looked into possibilities. The talapia were mentioned, but I don't think Alaska would allow this. There are lobster culture programs available where the adults are returned to be released in the wild, but Alaska may be too far removed from their release sites. If I had to, we would work with ecosystems containing algae, protists, daphnia, triops, shrimp, snails, and killfish. Many suppliers offer this system.

Again, specific activities we engage in can be shared with anyone interested. We also are very interested in anyone involved in similar activities. We have heard about a school in the Petaluma, California area working with endangered Sacramento Kings, but have not researched this yet.

Keep smiling, don't get stuck in a rut. Take some chances and get as many people as you can involved from day one. Keep them involved. Do your public relations!

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