Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (Getting to Know Salmonids in the Elwha River)

An adult coho salmon with a smolt salmon above.
Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Aquatic Studies, Biology: Animals, Hydrology, Marine Biology
Three Block Class Periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Washington State Standards:
EALR 4 6-8 LS3A,  LS3E,  LS2D,  LS2E
EALR 1 Comp. 1.1, Comp. 1.5, Comp 1.6, EALR 2 Comp 2.1, Comp. 2.2, Comp. 2.3, EALR 3 Comp 3.1, Comp 3.2
Social Studies
EALR 5 Comp. 5.2


Salmonids are a crucial part of the Elwha River ecosystem. How can our understanding of their life cycles help restore the Elwha River ecosystem?


Students will be introduced to the wild salmonid species of the Elwha River. After watching a power point presentation on the anadromous life styles of pacific salmonids, students will work in groups to research. Then students will compose a presentation on the lifestyle of a specific species of anadromous fish found in the Elwha River: Chinook, chum, coho, pink, sockeye, steelhead, bull trout, or Dolly Varden. Student groups will then apply their knowledge by constructing a model healthy river habitat in which their species, along with other species of salmon, can grow and thrive.

  • Alevin (al-uh-vuhn)A newly hatched fish in the larval stage, which remain in the redd area and feed off their yolk sac.
  • Anadromous- ([uh-nad-ruh-muh s)A fish that is born in freshwater, migrates to the ocean to spend its adult life, and returns to freshwater to spawn.
  • Fry- A juvenile fish that has absorbed its yolk sac and begins to hunt or feed on its own.
  • Oncorhynchus (on-kor-IN-cus) – Latin name for the genus that includes salmonids
  • Redd- A depression in sand or gravel where salmon deposit their eggs and then partially bury them.
  • Salmonids (sal-MON-ids) – salmon and the other species related to them, such as trout and whitefish.
  • Smolt- A juvenile fish (for salmon, the stage where they enter salt water).
  • Spawn - The process by which an organism produces others of its kind.


  • Lesson 9- Salmon Anadromous Lifestyles.pptx
  • Reflection Journal pages (Printable handout)
  • Vocabulary notes (Printable handout)
  • Student pages (Printablehandout)
  • Research materials/ Internet access
  • Power point software / poster boards/ art supplies


Remind students of the essential question and introduce the guiding question.

Hand out the first reflection journal page. Have students take a couple of minutes to answer the reflection journal questions. Questions they generate can add to their research.
Hand out the vocabulary notes page. Have students take notes on the important vocabulary while watching the power point.
Review the vocabulary.

Divide students into groups and assign each group a salmon species to research.
Hand out the student pages and go over the expectations for the research project.
Give students computer or library time to work on research
Provide materials and time for presentation.
Students present their research to the class.
Using their own research and the research of other groups, have students create a model of a healthy river ecosystem for Elwha fish. This can be a computer simulation, a diorama, a poster, a play, a travel brochure for salmon, a comic book, let the students be creative.
Hand out the second Reflection Journal Page. Give students time for a final reflection the lesson.


Reflection journal pages. See rubric.
Research project based on the student page guidelines. See rubric.
Assess River habitat project using rubric provided.

Additional Resources

For struggling learners;

Salmon coloring book visually and simply explains salmon life cycles.

The Lesson plan in the link below contains a "Something Fishy: Life Cycle of a Salmon Game"


Explore the shellfish associated with the Elwha River:

Just for fun:

Salmon dissection game http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00548/Dissection.html

Coloring. Mazes, dot-to-dot fin stuff:
Many salmon games:



Alevin (al-uh-vuh n)
Anadromous- ([uh-nad-ruh-muh s)