Federal Way students release salmon into West Hylebos Wetlands

Storming the Sound with Salmon teaches kids about environment, pollution

Federal Way Public Schools students released hundreds of salmon into the West Hylebos Wetlands Park during the sixth annual Storming the Sound with Salmon event on Wednesday.

The event is a partnership between the city of Federal Way and the school district.

Kassie Swenson, chief of communications and strategy for FWPS, said this project gives students the chance to make connections between their daily lives and the local environment by giving them a real-life example of what pollution is harming.

“This is really about the students, getting them excited about STEM science, bringing the learning from the classroom out to nature,” Swenson said

Kelly Maloney, an elementary science facilitator with FWPS, said about 1,000 students participate in the release during four or five periods, with more than 35 classrooms getting involved.

She also said the event features different stations showing what the kids are learning about the wetlands.

Swenson said kindergarteners through eighth-graders are represented at the event, with about 23 schools that participate.

Maloney said 150 eggs were delivered from the hatchery in November to each of the participating schools, where all of the students benefited from watching them grow over the months. One class cared for the tank at each school, she said.

“They watch them go through all the stages of their life cycle,” Kelly said. “Once they’re ready to be released into the wild, we bring them out here.”

Each student gets the chance to name and release their own salmon, which they seemed to enjoy.

Xander Lopez, a sixth-grader at Woodmont K-8, named his salmon Sam Goode after a character in his favorite book series, “I Am Number Four.”

Fellow sixth graders Hannah Nelner, Benjamin Lampa and Yahya Daud named their fish Thomas Jefferson, James and Gilbert, respectively.

The students enjoyed themselves during this event, with Xander’s only complaints being that his backpack was heavy and his feet were hurting after a long day of walking.

Hannah said she enjoyed learning about the life cycle of the ecosystem in the wetlands.

“It’s really interesting to learn about all the diversity in the area,” she said.

Yahya said it was important for students to have experiences like this in the classroom.

“If you don’t get experiences like this outside, you’ll probably stay inside and not experience nature and its beauty,” he said.

Kelly Howard, a teacher at Woodmont, said this was a great experience for the students to learn about invasive species and the role salmon play in the local ecosystem.

Theresa Thurlow, Federal Way’s Surface Water manager, said the program started in 2012 after the Department of Fish and Wildlife lost funding to continue it in the region.

The King County Waste Treatment Division gave the city a waterworks grant in 2017 to implement the program in the rest of the schools in the district, so every school now has a form of salmon in the classroom, Thurlow said.

The project gives students the opportunity to learn about the impact of pollution in their community.

“For the students, it’s their first initiation into water as a resource,” she said.

Thurlow said this program helps facilitate real change for issues like pollution.

“Education outreach is part of our permit for a reason, and it’s because that’s where we’re going to get behavior change,” she said.

Along with a $100,000 grant from the Department of Ecology to continue the program, the program is sponsored by Puget Sound Energy, Chick-fil-A, Subway and the Waste Treatment Division of King County.

A sixth-grade student at Woodmont K-8 releases a salmon during Storming the Sound with Salmon on Wednesday. HALEY DONWERTH, the Mirror

A sixth-grade student at Woodmont K-8 releases a salmon during Storming the Sound with Salmon on Wednesday. HALEY DONWERTH, the Mirror