School curriculum builds awareness of sacred endangered fish

A youth in the Multnomah 4-H program handles a lamprey on a field trip to the Umatilla Tribes fishery.

The 400-million-year-old Pacific lamprey, which is considered sacred by Pacific Northwest tribes, is sliding toward extinction. Education is key to saving the lamprey, but until until recently, no Oregon school programs were in place to get the word out to the generations that will help conserve the ancient fish.

In response, Oregon State University Extension 4-H in the Portland area partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission to develop a multimedia curriculum for middle-school students. Using video, graphics and text, teachers engage students to learn about the lamprey and take action to save it. Recognizing how students learn, the course can be given on iPads or in a more traditional format. In addition to six educational modules, 4-H staff conduct presentations using live adult Pacific lamprey on loan from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

The interactive activities raise awareness of the lamprey crisis and encourage kids to think like scientists, a desirable trait in an increasingly complex world. In addition, the new curriculum counts as a core standard in science. To share what they’ve learned, students in the program have hosted Pacific lamprey festivals, created a website and started letter-writing campaigns to Gov. Kate Brown.


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