Guest Contributor: Monika Robinson
Members of the “Irish Transition Program” at Waldport High School have been very busy! The program’s name comes from the school’s mascot (Irish) and its focus on preparing students with developmental disabilities for life after graduation. With the help of their teacher, Learning Specialist Monika Robinson, the students have been working on developing job skills. Last month, the team visited the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC) in Alsea to learn about the salmon cycle and to practice their job strategies. The Oregon Coast STEM Hub provided funds for the transportation and associated costs for the students’ upstream visit.
OHRC is a world-class research facility charged with developing and perfecting programs to improve fish hatchery practices and investigate all things relating to propagating salmon and steelhead. The motivated students from the Irish Transition Program toured the Center’s grounds and then used hand-operated gardening tools to practice their job strategies. The class dedicated themselves to clearing invasive species from one of the dry experimental streambeds, which they accomplished despite the persistent rain.
The trip to OHRC provided students with an opportunity to relate some of the activities they have been doing in class to a much larger professional scale operation. Irish Transition students have been raising salmon eggs in their classroom at Waldport High using the ODFW’s Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) “Egg to Fry” protocol. Two new chillers donated by Alsea Sportsman’s Association (ASA) support classroom aquariums where the students have placed eyed eggs in gravel. The students are keeping daily records of fish development, taking pictures with school iPads, and examining specimens under microscopes. When the hatched fry grow to be a little over an inch long, the students will release them into the Alsea River.
The Egg to Fry program and the trip to the hatchery not only provide Irish Transition Special Education students with hands-on STEM learning experiences, but these activities also connect them with STEM professionals in the local community.
“Community connections for these students are very important, to both socialize them with the world at large and to let them experience one of the many real work activities available to them following graduation,” Robinson said.
She thanks several community members for helping to make the field trip such a successful learning adventure for her students, including Ryan Couture and Alex Powell, from OHRC; Christine Clapp from ODFW; and Chuck Pavlik from ASA.
Monika Robinson is a Learning Specialist at Waldport High School in Waldport, OR.