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Exploring Geography: Washington State Salmon!

Today’s post about Washington State Salmon comes from Marnie! Marnie is a wife, mom, daughter, twin, little sister, career woman, runner and writer for Carrots are Orange. She hails from Maine, a wonderfully down to earth place to grow up. Marnie moved to the west coast in 1999, and currently lives in Seattle. Here are three posts I love from Marnie’s blog: Paint in a Box – Sensory Madness, Infant Ball Pit (brilliantly simple DIY version!), and Earth {A Play Date}.

exploring geography at mama smiles

One exciting part about living in Washington State is being so close to nature. We are surrounded by beautiful mountains, bodies of water and parks. We celebrate outdoor living and love to breath in the fresh air whenever we get the opportunity. Salmon are a big deal in Washington State. The species of Salmon are interesting creatures, especially to children, because they move up from rivers from the sea to spawn. They move from fresh to salt water and back again. With this fascination we all have in the Pacific Northwestern part of the United States, I decided to introduce my almost three year old to the Life Cycle of a Salmon. As usual, my goal with introducing new topics, especially ones as complex and robust as exploring the Life Cycle of Salmon, is to familiarize my son with the topic and help him to feel comfortable with the new words and ideas. So I gently introduce the ideas through collaborating with him on projects and being with him as he works talking as he colors or creates art, or views a video, for example.


1 life cycle of a salmon

In order to prepare him for the exercise we went on an excursion to our local Locks, where not only can you see boats pass from fresh to salt water, you can also see the swarms of salmon making their way through a fish ladder.

2 life cycle of a salmon

The locks are also extremely interesting from an engineering standpoint. Watching the “boat elevator” as the water fed out and then back into the locks was captivating even for our 15 month old.

3 life cycle of a salmon

Very briefly (for us parents and educators), the locks and associated facilities serve three purposes:

  1. To maintain the water level of the fresh water Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20 to 22 feet above sea level.
  2. To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes (saltwater intrusion).
  3. To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.

The Fish Ladder was amazing, like being at an aquarium but better. We had a view of the migration of these salmon. The ladder also had a display of a timeline of salmon eggs with a magnifying glass for a good close up.

4 life cycle of a salmon


5 Life Cycle of a Salmon

We also have the amazing chance to participate in a Salmon Release with my son’s preschool class. These children watch these eggs grow over time until the fry are ready for release into a nearby creek. A wonderful hands on learning experience for these preschoolers. The fry will grow to be smolt, then make their way to the salt water in about a year’s time.

7 Life Cycle of a Salmon6 Life Cycle of a Salmon


No activity would be complete with a book in our home. Here are a few that we used to supplement our son’s learning:

Life Cycle of a Salmon by Lisa Trumbauer

The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream by Joanna Cole, Bruce Degan and Nancy Stevenson

Salmon Forest by David Suzuki, Sarah Ellis and Sheena Lott

The Life Cycle of a Salmon by Bobbie Kalman


8 Life Cycle of a Salmon

  • This printable is also a good one but you have to pay for full access.


We used water beads to simulate eggs, then used play dough to create fry, smolt and finally mature Salmon. Playing and creating with play dough was not only fun but it was effective in working and talking with him about the Life Cycle process.


Other resources:

Thank you for choosing to read this post today! Marnie

Thank you, Marnie, for this incredible post! I learned a lot about salmon, and will be coming back to the resources you’ve shared!

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

8 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Washington State Salmon!”

  1. Wow I wish I could have come on this trip. I would loved to have seen the salmon swimming. Awesome.

    What a learning experience.

    Thanks for sharing on Science Sparks

  2. What an amazing experience for little ones. I also learned a thing or two from this post!

  3. Elisa | blissfulE

    I got to see some salmon migrating one time, and it was a wonderful experience. Such amazing creatures!

    Love the picture of the wellies, too. :)

  4. Heather@Creative Family Moments

    The release is so cool! I remember when we had a chance to go to a nearby creek when we lived in Washington and were able to see the salmon swimming upstream. Such a cool memory!

  5. I love Washington! This seems like a fantastic place to take my kids..now to figure out how to find time to drive the 36 hours to get there! :) I love the pictures in this post…they are fantastic!

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