Students in Peter Skene Ogden’s Justice Club are learning about birds and fishes.
The club, started four years ago by teacher sponsors Tai St. Pierre and Ray Kline, aims to teach youth about animal husbandry along with conservation measures. The focus is on ducklings and Chinook salmon this year, although they had previously also raised chickens, Pink salmon and bees.
The ducks serve dual purpose: “It’s so kids can learn about how they develop in the eggs,” said St. Pierre. “They learn a bit about that and then we will sell the ducks as a fundraiser. That helps to support our other programs like the beekeeping and such.”
The club got 50 per cent of their eggs to hatch this year, down from the 60-70 per cent last year. The lower returns were partly because it was a challenge to maintain the humidity and other conditions in the incubators, St. Pierre said. In the end, they were pleased with the results.
“I think the best part about hatching the ducklings is the week that we have them after they’ve hatched,” she said. “The kids really like to handle them and just sit with them and watch them a lot of the time. It’s something that’s really interesting for them.”
Kline said, “I like coming in that first day when they’re supposed to hatch. You look then you hear, “cheep, cheep, cheep” and there’s a whole bunch of them in there.”
The teachers said they would definitely hatch ducks and chickens again and may even try geese next year. They will also likely continue with the salmon, which are part of a conservation program through the Department of Fisheries. Although other high schools in School District 27 have raised salmon in the past, PSO is now the only one doing it.
“We learn about at-risk species, the human impact on those species and how we can mitigate our impact or what we can do to help those species rebound, what kind of protections these species need,” St. Pierre said.
“It’s basically hatching Chinook salmon and then releasing them back into the rivers to help the populations.”
The club received their salmon this year from Nechako River, but usually gets them from San Jose River near Williams Lake.
Student Junaya Nielsen said she enjoyed learning about the ducklings and the fish, noting she “really wanted to get involved in our school and our community.”
“I like animals a lot, so I like to help with things like bees and stuff because it’s cultivating our environment and helping that,” she said. “And then I also like to help with the fish because that’s really cool, and salmon are dying off currently.”
The Justice Club travelled to Horsefly to learn more about salmon, spending the whole day learning about the salmon cycle and conservation status, St. Pierre said.
“We did a hike where we learned about different plants and we looked at identifying mushrooms,” she said. “That was really interesting and really neat learning about what you can get from the land. We got to meet with a lot of different researchers and conservation officers.”
Although they have looked after Chinook in the past, this time was a little different because they are way more responsive, active and bigger than in previous years.
“They’re way more aggressive when it comes to feeding. The Pink we didn’t have to feed once they hatch, they were released immediately,” St. Pierre said. “The previous Chinook didn’t seem as interested in eating right away, whereas these ones seem to be developing faster and better.”
The Justice Club is planning to travel to Scout Island in June to learn more and release their salmon.