SYRCL’s Salmon Expeditions Gets Bigger and Better in 2022

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Largest Salmon Expedition Season to Date 

Every fall, the South Yuba River Citizens League takes local students on a float trip down the lower Yuba River to teach them about Chinook salmon, the Yuba River watershed, the impacts of the Gold Rush, and the role restoration plays in the protection of our river. The 2022 season was the biggest one to date, with 1,867 students, teachers, parents, and community members participating in our trips. 

Thanks to continued grant funding from the Yuba Water Agency, SYRCL Salmon Expeditions continued to expand the program and bring more Yuba County 4th grade students on a field trip cost free! This year, 1,024 Yuba County 4th graders, teachers, and parent chaperones participated in a field trip. In 2021, Yuba Water Agency funding allowed SYRCL to purchase Teva sandals to loan to students who do not have adequate shoes for the river. This year, funding allowed SYRCL to expand the gear loaner program to purchase additional Teva sandals in smaller sizes, fleece jackets, and rain jackets to loan students during cold and rainy trips. Each Yuba County 4th grader also received a reusable water bottle for the field trip. 

Schools throughout Nevada, Sierra, and Sutter County also participated in field trips bringing 644 students, teachers, and parent chaperones down the river. Two weekend Community Trips also took place, bringing 199 community members down the lower Yuba River.   

These trips are not possible without the partnership with H2O Adventures rafting company, whose guides safely take students down the river and provide valuable natural history knowledge about Chinook salmon, other wildlife, and the Yuba River watershed. Volunteer Salmon Naturalists also help facilitate students’ on-river learning activities throughout the season.   

Program Expansion 

A few changes were made to the trips to make the experience more comprehensive for students. Monique Streit, River Education Manager, and Rose Ledford, Education Coordinator, developed and taught additional one-hour lessons before and after classes attended the field trip. Pre-expedition lessons focused on an introduction to the Yuba River watershed and the Chinook salmon life cycle. During the field trip, students participated in a variety of learning activities centered around the watershed, the impacts of the Gold Rush on the environment and the Nisenan Tribe, a benthic macroinvertebrate investigation, and the importance of restoration. A few weeks after the school field trip, Monique and Rose visited classrooms again to teach a lesson on how each student can reduce their impact on the environment and protect salmon through water conservation. In total, SYRCL taught 78 classroom lessons to 3rd-6th grade students. 

“The lessons were very engaging for all students,” expressed one teacher. “I appreciate that the lessons had direct teaching as well as hands-on activities to involve the students. I loved seeing how much the students learned.” 

The California Heritage Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP) continued to consult with SYRCL to integrate more Nisenan heritage and teachings into the curriculum. One addition that seemed to have a lasting impact on students was integrating Nisenan words throughout the curriculum. Two words that stuck with the students were mai (salmon) and Uba Seo (Yuba River). When SYRCL educators returned to the classrooms weeks after the field trips, students would recount what they learned on the trip and almost every student would say they remembered the words mai and Uba Seo. One student said, “My favorite part of the field trip was when we were rafting, we saw big, huge, giant salmon and we yelled, ‘my my we found mai mai!’”   

With many students and teachers saying, “this is the best field trip ever,” it is evident Salmon Expedition field trips are very memorable. Not only did teachers find the content taught during the program to be relevant and “gave students an in-depth understanding of how everything works together for the benefit, or detriment, of our local watershed and its inhabitants,” students also “learned basic outdoor skills, such as walking on unstable ground, paddling a boat, and peeing outside. These are things that students from [our] Title One school don’t get the opportunity to do unless the school provides it,” said a 4th grade teacher. 

SYRCL looks forward to continuing these expeditions and educating the next generation of environmentalists in the fall of 2023. If you would like to learn more, look for our emails in your inbox about community floats next September.  

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