EAGLE RIVER, Alaska (AP) — Eagle Academy Charter School second-graders know salmon inside out — literally.
On Friday, Nov. 2, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fishery Biologist Jay Baumer taught students and parent volunteers a lesson about the fish that fill Alaska's rivers each summer, including an up-close look inside a salmon.
Groups of four kids shared a salmon as Baumer educated them about its anatomy. Baumer's lesson was not for the squeamish, as students pulled out the heart, liver, intestine, etc — most with a smile on their face.
"They loved it," said second grade teacher Missy Timberlake. "Most of them were up to their elbows in it."
That reaction is why Baumer visits several schools each year.
"It's so exciting seeing them get excited about fish," he said.
Before the hands-on part of his lesson, Baumer touched on a salmon's anatomy and how to identify the five species (King, Silver, Red, Pink and Chum) here in Alaska. Baumer said his goal is to have a lasting impact on Alaska's youth.
"Hopefully, this will lead to a lifelong stewardship of fish," he said.
The annual salmon dissection has been part of Timberlake's class for the better part of a decade.
There's no one better than Baumer to lead the messy tutorial, she said.
"He's so great with the kids," Timberlake said.
It's not just the students who benefit from Baumer.
"He teaches a lot of new things that I don't even know," Timberlake said.
Examining a real fish is just a portion of the students' salmon life cycle studies. At the beginning of each school year, students get eggs from a hatchery and raise salmon in the classroom.
Once the salmon reaches the fry stage of its life cycle, kids release them at the end of the school year, Timberlake said.
Given the abundance of salmon in the state, the lesson couldn't be more appropriate, Timberlake said.
"It really helps integrate the Alaska culture into our schools," she said.
The most beneficial part is that each student can hold the salmon in their hands, Timberlake said.
"The kids get to get in there and touch it," she said. "Learn all the outside parts and inside parts."