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Wheat Week Under Way

by Chrystal Doucette
Columbia Basin Herald, October 24, 2007

ALMIRA - Almira-Hartline elementary and middle schools are celebrating Wheat Week this week, the Franklin Conservation District announced.

"It's a brand-new program we just started this school year," said Education and Outreach Specialist Kara Kaelber.

Kaelber said a $100,000 Washington Wheat Commission grant is helping fund several conservation district programs, including the Wheat Week program.

Other sponsors are Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Adams County Association of Wheat Growers, the Franklin County Association of Wheat Growers, CLD Pacific, Columbia Basin Groundwater Management Area and Pioneer High-Bred International.

"Students will learn about wheat, soil, water, energy, salmon and dams during a series of five lessons delivered over the course of the week," Kaelber said.

Schools are participating from several counties, including Adams and Lincoln counties. Kaelber said participating schools are located in heavy wheat-producing counties.

Ritzville and Odessa already participated in Wheat Week, Kaelber said. Up next is Lind.

Retired Ritzville vocational and agriculture teacher Terry Rueb started teaching the Wheat Week program in the Almira-Hartline elementary and middle schools Monday.

Other programs funded through the grants include Water on Wheels, a teacher workshop called Project WILD, and Salmon in the Classroom.

Kaelber said the Franklin Conservation District offered no educational programs last year due to a lack of funding. The organization spent time writing grants and is now offering several programs.

Water on Wheels is a kindergarten to 12th-grade program focusing on water and soil conservation, said Kaelber, who teaches the program. It is offered in Grant, Adams, Franklin, Benton and Walla Walla counties.

Project WILD is a free workshop offered to teachers to help them integrate environmental education into existing curriculum, Kaelber said. A session is offered Nov. 3 at Big Bend Community College, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The program focuses on wildlife in particular, she said.

The Salmon in the Classroom program allows students to raise salmon and then release them into the wild. Through the process, students learn about habitat and water quality requirements, the salmon life cycle and water conservation, Kaelber said. Grant funding was needed for the program because of the increased interest, she said.

A 55-gallon tank with a cooling rod is installed in the classroom. The cost is $1,500 per set.

"It's a unique setup, but once they have the setup they just get their eggs every year," she said.

New tanks were installed this year in classrooms in Ritzville, Washtucna and Grand Coulee Dam, Kaelber said.

Students in Ritzville are raising Steelhead Salmon and releasing them into Snake River. Students in Grand Coulee are raising Rainbow Trout and releasing them into Banks Lake.

"It's thanks to Washington Wheat Farmers that we're able to do all these programs," she said.

For more information or to sign up for the Project WILD workshop, call Kara Kaelber at 509-545-8546, ext. 3, or visit

The Salmon in the Classroom program, established in 1991, was created as an educational project to encourage respect for water resources and promote responsible behavior towards the environment. By raising salmon in their classrooms, students learn about water quality and habitat issues, and discover the inter-relationships of species and conditions within a given watershed. This program also provides aquariums, organizes field trips, and hands-on in-class presentations on salmon and water quality.

Currently, about 600 schools statewide participate in the Salmon in the Classroom Project. Students receive 500 eggs from a designated hatchery and care for "their" salmon while learning about life histories and habitat requirements. By becoming salmon stewards, these students are more aware of local waterways and more conscious of and knowledgeable about water quality issues. The program also informs students that the agricultural community supports realistic, science based salmon recovery efforts. Students release the salmon as fry after studying the streams and creeks into which the fish will be released.

Chrystal Doucette
Wheat Week Under Way
Columbia Basin Herald, October 23, 2007

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