Salmon Heroes

Salmon Heroes is a five-hour program designed to teach students about salmon habitat needs and how stormwater pollution is affecting the watershed. It occurs in fall and winter when salmon return to their spawning grounds here in the Pacific Northwest, and allows students to see salmon in their habitat as well as learn how to help them through community science and daily action steps.

Recommended for grades 4-8

Season: September – December


Registration for the 2022 Salmon Heroes season will open in September.

Renton or Kent School District Registration Form (September/October)

Highline or Tukwila School District Registration Form (mid-October through December)

Auburn, Fife, or Federal Way School District Registration Form (November through December)


Salmon Heroes is ready for in-person programming and virtual offerings in 2021!

Environmental Science Center staff have been hard at work adapting our program to fit the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and safety is a primary concern.  In accordance with State health mandates, all of our employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and can provide proof of vaccination upon request.  Additionally, all educators will be wearing masks for all of our programming – even outside.

The Salmon Heroes Program will still include the multi-part approach from previous years. We will include our one-hour introductory lesson, a three-hour field study investigation, and our one-hour post-field study synthesis lesson. If you are interested, our funding also allows us to offer an additional post-field study lesson focused on stewardship, in which we go into more depth with students to design schoolyard projects related to salmon and watersheds.

You will decide what works best for your students. You can select virtual options taught over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, in-person classes on your school grounds, or off-site field trips if allowed by your district/school. Learn more about the Salmon Heroes program by watching students and naturalists work!

If you have questions, please contact our Programs Coordinator:

In-Person or Virtual Options:

All aspects of our program will be available as both a live class where our educators come to your school or as a virtual lesson taught over Zoom or Microsoft Teams.  We also have pre-recorded versions (in both English and Spanish) of all aspects of our program if needed. In addition, ESC staff have created a Salmon Heroes Field Journal to help guide students through all the parts of the program (printed booklets will be brought to your school during or before your first lesson); the journal is available in both English and Spanish. Teachers can also request digital versions of journal (PDF, Google Slides).

    •  Part 1: During the initial one-hour introductory lesson, students will delve into the habitat needs of salmon, as well as the challenges to survival that salmon face during each stage of their life cycle. This lesson covers limiting factors for salmon survival, including the impacts from human development, climate change, and polluted stormwater.
  • Part 2: This component will include our outdoor stream explorations. Students will review the salmon life cycle, learn external and internal anatomy, collect water quality data, and use maps to examine whole watershed connections. Can’t go on field trips yet? Don’t worry – we can bring the field trip to your school grounds!
  • Part 3: The final one-hour synthesis lesson will discuss the water quality results found in local streams. Students will also be tasked with discussing solutions to many common pollutants in the watershed, such as carbon dioxide, tire dust, fertilizer, dog waste, and car oil. They will have the opportunity to brainstorm positive actions they can take in their community and with their families to improve local water quality.
  • Optional Stewardship Extension – Part 4: ESC naturalists will work with students to develop stewardship action projects related to their learnings about how humans affect watershed health. These might be public service announcements (PSAs) created about stormwater pollution, or crafting a letter to the city council about salmon health in their community. We can also work with classes who might be interested in organizing in-person projects such as a trash pick-up on school grounds, removing invasive plants, or stenciling the storm drains on your school property. Projects can be individual, in small groups, or can be a single project for the entire class.

All portions of this program are correlated with Next Generation Science Standards.

What could this look like? We encourage you to pick the option that will work best for you and your students. Our schedule will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. We strongly encourage grade-level cohorts from a school to sign up together. Here is one option for how you might sign up for Salmon Heroes this fall:

1. One-hour introductory lesson taught by ESC naturalists in your classroom.

2. A schoolyard “Salmon Heroes field study” where ESC naturalists bring the field trip stations to your schoolyard. Classes will rotate through the stations similar to a normal field trip.

3. Live one-hour virtual class to discuss water quality results and brainstorm solutions. ESC naturalists will teach over Zoom or Microsoft Teams projected for your class.

Location: What streams will we be visiting? We want to connect students with streams in their local communities. For our regular in-person field trips, we host field studies at Miller Creek in Normandy Park, the Cedar River in Renton, and the Green River in Auburn. However, if virtual options are necessary, we will have the opportunity to test and share smaller local streams near individual schools. As schools schedule, we will be planning our water testing locations to ensure we are connecting with a stream close to you and your students.            

Cost:  We have received grants from King County Flood Control District, King County Wastewater Treatment Division – WaterWorks program, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, and The Russell Family Foundation to help support our program this year. We will be offering the whole program at no cost to you or your students! If you are able to come out on an in-person field trip, we have transportation subsidies (up to $150 per 1-2 classes or up to $300 per 3-4 classes) for schools where more than 45% of students qualify for Free or Reduced Price Meals.

To book Salmon Heroes: Our online Salmon Heroes Registration Forms will allow you to select dates that work best for your students. Because salmon return to each of our sites at different times throughout the fall, we’ve recommended dates for different school districts to maximize salmon viewing.

Renton or Kent School District Registration Form (September/October)

Highline or Tukwila School District Registration Form (mid-October through December)

Auburn, Fife, or Federal Way School District Registration Form (November through December)

If you don’t see your school district listed please feel free to fill out any of the registration forms.

After participating in ESC’s Salmon Heroes program, students pledge to adopt three behaviors to protect, to conserve, and to educate others about the importance of clean watersheds to sustain healthy salmon. To honor these students’ commitment to environmental stewardship, they received an Official Salmon Hero identification card.


Past Salmon Heroes can be found here!