Sakhalin Island, RUSSIA

Boomerang’s Next-Gen Success

The rivers of Russia’s Sakhalin Island, just north of Japan, nourish an amazing 11 salmonid species, from rare sea-run taimen to the prolific pinks that support its fisheries.

So it makes sense that salmon figure, big time, in the educational programming of Boomerang Club, a 25-year-old nonprofit serving Sakhalin’s outdoor adventurers. Since 2001, Boomerang’s classes and outdoor camps have reached about every schoolchild in Sakhalin. Key to Boomerang’s success is an ability to translate a passion for conservation to young audiences—through video games, board games, adventure excursions, and contests. That the message is getting through is evidenced by the generations of former students who are now returning, in young adulthood, to become the club’s organizers and guides.

Now, with the help of Wild Salmon Center, a Boomerang partner since 2009, the club’s popular program is expanding across the Russian Far East. School systems in regions from Khabarovsk to Primorye and Buryatia are picking up its field-tested curricula. Boomerang’s training webinars attract hundreds of viewers, some from as far as Belarus and Mongolia. In Kamchatka, Boomerang recently coached 30 local educators on wild salmon life cycles. This past summer, with the staff of Kronotsky Federal Reserve in Kamchatka, the club held a national curriculum-development competition about wild salmon; teachers across Russia can now freely download the winning lesson plans.

Boomerang’s new reach is accelerating the education of future salmon advocates. And like the virtuous cycle of its now-grown Sakhalin students—returning to teach and guide—students across the Russian Far East will hopefully help spread the gospel of salmon.

Above: Field classroom; Below: Field trips range from nearby streams to the remote Shantar Islands off the coast of Khabarovsk where students document wildlife; Boomerang Club chair Valentina Mezentseva proudly shows off a new, WSC-supported educational initiative called “Young Friends of the Ocean,” which packages all of Boomerang’s priority themes into one formal program. Photos provided by Boomerang. Bottom: Cordova 5th graders (Ramona DeNies, WSC).

Alaska Education Program Progresses

In Cordova, Alaska, practically everyone is connected to the annual salmon season. No surprise then that an educational pilot program here—co-developed by Wild Salmon Center, Prince William Sound Science Center, and the Copper River Watershed Project—uses salmon to teach school kids math, science, and research skills.

Each fall and spring since 2016, fifth graders at Mt. Eccles Elementary wade into spawning streams, play Salmonopoly, “become” a watershed, and—a key element of this pioneering curriculum—trace salmon to the human families they support.

Now, WSC and its partners are taking the Cordova program to the next level. The next goal is to standardize it, and offer these field-tested lesson plans to coastal teachers throughout Alaska.

Next up: The Stronghold Fund

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