October 8, 2013

Real Life Homeschooling for October 2013~ A Lesson in Ichthyology

It's time for another edition of the Real Life Homeschooling Blog Link Up! Remember that each month we like to share posts where we are learning OUTSIDE of the classroom. This covers a plethora of areas, ideas and activities, so we hope that you will link up YOUR real life homeschooling experiences with us!
This month I wanted to share one of the fun things we did while in Oregon. On our way home, our family took a "detour" and stopped at the Bonneville Dam and Visitor's Center on the Columbia River in Washington. I grew up out in WA and I have been to the Bonneville Dam countless times, yet it still even enthralls me!

One of the most exciting parts about the dam is that you can go below the ground and view the fish going through the fish ladders of the dam. This is part of the fish counting that the Fish and Wildlife department does to keep an eye on the salmon and trout populations in the Columbia River. It's fascinating to see the numbers and what breed of salmon dominate each year. This year the Chinook are blowing the other salmon out of the water with their incredible numbers. Record highs since the 1930's! They are rather ecstatic about that!

Here is a photo of the diagram explaining the fish ladder and how it works through the dam. It also shows at what point in the ladder the viewing windows are (upper right portion). We used this to explain to Little Britches how the process worked and why they needed to have it in the first place.

I love this almost floor to ceiling mural down near the viewing windows of how it looked prior to installing the dam. So gorgeous. 

Justin ADORED the "beeg feesh!!" And as you can see from the following photos...that is NOT an exaggeration! Each of these fish were at LEAST 2 foot long. And some of the Chinook that went through were pushing 4 foot in lengths with incredibly thick bodies! What you can't see is the detail on the fish. The camera doesn't pick that up through the water. But next to the window you can see the fish so clear you could count their fins.

A massive salmon run. In previous years when I have been here, you could sit and look through the windows for 15 minutes and MAYBE see 10-25 fish total. In this one shot alone you can see almost that many!

It really is fascinating to see how many different variety you can spot...there is a display near the windows that show examples of each breed of fish that typically runs through so you can see their characteristics for better identification.

Do you know how to tell the difference between a hatchery fish and a wild fish? Check the back fins...if you count TWO than it's a wild fish. Hatchery fish have their back fin clipped off. Do you see any wild salmon in this photo? I can easily identify three of them...can you?

This was a great piece of information for the boys and they quickly started counting the wild fish...and let me tell you...if it was an exceptionally large fish than it was most likely wild. They are nearly TWICE the size of a hatchery salmon. Interesting huh?

The second level of the viewing area is a museum dedicated to the Indian finds that were discovered as they dug out the site of the dam, as well as things made by the local Indian tribes. There are beautiful crafts on display...
I adore this glass beaded bag. So beautiful, huh?!

There are also displays showing how the fish were caught before the river was dammed. The boys enjoy this display.
It is a water wheel fish catcher and it operates so that the boys can watch how it goes around. Baby Britches called this the "feesh wheel". He's not that far from the truth!

There is a dugout canoe up here as well as some information displays and quizzes on the area. A mini museum of sorts. It was the great combination for the fish viewing....though the boys got bored and went back down to see the fish again.

All in all this was an excellent detour and the boys learned a lot about the dam and the fish passing through. The next time we come, we are going to try to visit inside the dam itself. I know the boys would get a kick out of seeing the Turbines. We toured them when I was little and I still remember it!
Now it's time for you to link up YOUR real life homeschooling experiences!


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