Lakeridge Middle School Students and UW Scientists Team Up to Research Salmon At Swan Creek Park
The SEARCH Project increases access for K-12 students to experience scientific research


Photo: Lakeridge Middle School 8th grader Nathan Becker (second from right) watches as University of Tacoma researchers scan the stream for salmon at Swan Creek Park on November 18, 2017.

As a science teacher at Lakeridge Middle School in Bonney Lake, Michele Chamberlain saw a critical need to bring her students to where science happens: right out in nature. She has teamed up with University of Washington-Tacoma researcher Erik McDonald and his colleagues to expand opportunities for K-12 students to do hands-on research. By participating in data collection, students are able to gain valuable experience in actual research conditions, while the researchers benefit from the help to collect more data. As a part of the SEARCH Project, supported by the PWI’s Environmental Education Community of Interest, Michele is hoping this partnership can start bridging the gap between students and community institutions.

We asked Michele a few questions and even got a chance to go out with the researchers and students to look for salmon as part of an ongoing study. Here’s our quick Q&A with Michele followed by some fantastic photos from the UW team taken during our visit to Swan Creek Park:

How did this project come about and when did that happen?

This project was the brainstorm and creation of Erik Mc Donald, who works on the [salmon] Pre-Spawn Mortality Study. I met Erik in the summer of 2015 during a workshop called "Project Search". It brought educators and researchers together for two days. We were able to share ideas, passions and as it turned out, work together to create opportunities for K-12 students. 

What’s the goal for this project, both for the students and for educators/researchers?

The goal for my students is to create a sense of environmental awareness. The 8th grade Environmental Science class is a one-of-a-kind class that is part of the larger Future Farmers of America (FFA)/AgriScience umbrella of the Sumner School District. This class is an exploratory class, with the purpose of helping students become more globally aware of environmental conditionals and problems and then learn to become problem-solvers.

Who is involved?

This project is guided and funded by the University of Washington. I have a class of 18 8th graders who benefited from Erik's guest lecture and instruction about pre-spawn mortality. For this year, the Saturday field trip was optional, and we had two students with parents join us. 

What would you like to see happen next for these visits?

I would like to be able to organize this field trip so that all students can participate, even if the event is on a Saturday. The guest lecturer component was incredible, but there is really nothing like being out in the field and seeing the work firsthand.

Many thanks to UW-Tacoma researchers Erik McDonald (right) and Keefe Brockman for leading this research trip and for their excellent salmon photos, and a big thank you to Michele for taking the time to tell us more about the SEARCH Project!

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