For nearly two decades, teachers across B.C. have been teaching elementary school kids about the importance of salmon with a hands-on method that includes raising chum eggs to the fry stage before releasing them into nearby ecosystems.
And now the Hyde Creek Watershed Society is thanking teachers and students from the local school district who have contributed to the Hyde Creek ecosystem over the past 11 years with a mural.
A wall and staircase inside the Hyde Creek Educational Centre and Hatchery has been painted and dedicated to the elementary school children of School District 43 who have helped the hatchery succeed over the years.
As part of the Department of Fisheries and Ocean's Salmonids in the Classroom program, Tri-Cities children are tasked with raising chum eggs to the fry stage in aquariums in their classrooms.
Children tend the eggs from January to April before they are released into Hyde Creek hatchery in the spring.
"[The program] has benefited the hatchery in terms of awareness, starting with the children being so aware and educated on the cycle of the salmon and keeping our creeks clean," said Jean Peachman, a director of the Hyde Creek Watershed Society.
"Eleven years ago, I knew more than the children but now I find they correct my pronunciation of the words."
The mural, painted by Vancouver resident Kim Hunter, depicts children in the classroom raising the chum eggs, then transitions to a boy dumping the fish into the creek.
As visitors ascend the stairs and reach the top, the mural shows the top of the mountain and the estuaries the salmon take to get to the ocean.
"I didn't have to depict all the bugs and trees accurately, it was more creative," said Hunter, adding that as educational tools, previous hatchery murals had to be more accurate in their depictions and took approximately 20 days to paint.
Over the past five years, Hunter has decorated the walls of the learning centre with educational murals depicting the four seasons and the ecosystem and animals that depend on the creek.
The autumn mural is meant to teach kids about the different species of fish that spawn in the creek; the summer mural depicts the bears, herons and eagles that live off the river; the spring mural features all the blossoms, berries and birds; while the winter artwork shows the ravens, deer and otters that utilize the creek.
"By the time I did my fourth one, I was so well versed in all the plants and berries in the creek," Hunter said. "It's been worth many years of university study on ecology just painting these murals."
While funding for the $3,000 murals comes mainly from sponsors, the society is currently looking to fund the most recent mural, as well as the painting of the top floor walls.
The hatchery welcomes approximately 250 free classes and tours annually.
To learn more about the hatchery and education centre, visit www.hydecreek. org.