Bay Twaddle paints the skeleton of a salmon, one of many activities at Baranof Elementary’s Salmon Celebration last month (09-24-15).

October is National Seafood Month. There’s a day heralding tuna and crab, but none for salmon until now. Chicken of the Sea, a provider of packaged seafood , proposed that October 8th be known as National Salmon Day.

Here in Sitka, the first graders are way ahead of the curve. Baranof Elementary School has been hosting a salmon celebration for the past 9  years. KCAW’s Emily Kwong visited the school during their annual celebration (09-24-15). 

Downloadable audio.

If you’ve ever watched salmon merge at the mouth of the river, that’s a bit of what I encountered trying to get in to Baranof Elementary School. The buses unloaded a school of students, dressed in bright coats with reflective patches, flashing silver. The kids had reason to be excited. Regular class would be suspended for a day of learning.

Mark Lee is the principal at Baranof Elementary, in his second year. Of the students on Salmon Celebration day, he said, “They have a lot of fun and it’s usually pretty hectic, but it’s controlled chaos.  

On Salmon Celebration Day, each class moves from room to room in 20-minute increments, taking part in different activities. According to Lee, thos include listening to Tlingit stories, building a habitat out of contruction paper, and playing a game about the salmon life cycle. Lee said, “It’s nice because the different types of learners that there are, there’s something that appeal to them in one way or another throughout the stations.”


First graders in Jessica Christianson’s class are absorbed by Tlingit stories about salmon, read by Chuck Miller of the Sitka Native Education Program. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

One way to do that is by appealing hopefully appealing to their appetites. Teacher Jeffrey Hole showed students how to make salmon dip in four easy steps. The classroom was stocked with boxes of ritz crackers and several pounds of the fish, all donated by Baranof parents.


Chaix Mooney and Breezy Smathers take turns mixing salmon with mayonnaise and sour cream for salmon dip. All the fish was donated by Baranof parents. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)


Dylan Radziukinas wasn’t a fan of Step #1, which involved separating salmon from the bones. “When we touched it it felt all gooey and mushy,” Radziukinas said.

But Dylan was a fan of the final product.


Teacher Jeffrey Hole led the salmon dip workshop. He said his goal is to encourage all students, especially the picky eaters, to give salmon a try. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Radziukinas: I’m going to try some on a cracker.(Sounds of munching)

Gabe Blankenship, 1st grader: I’m addicted!

KCAW: And what’s your favorite way to eat salmon?

Radziukinas: I liked smoked, fried, and I like king and sometimes I like it just regular.

Chaix Mooney, 1st grader: I like all of them. Yumm!!!




Jeffrey Hole, teacher: Beautiful ladies and gentleman. This is what you need to do.

Mr. Hole is wearing a tie shaped like a salmon. He says that the goal of his workshop, like all the workshops, is to make this critical resource familiar – and even fun – to first graders. Even if that means making a bit of a mess.

Hole: You will take your plate and throw it in the trash can. But you see this spoon? We can use again later. There’s a bucket of soapy water. Your spoon goes in the bucket.


Riley Mackie focuses intently on painting every vertebrae of the salmon skeleton, during Baranof Elementary’s Salmon Celebration (Emily Kwong, KCAW photo)