SUBJECT:  Egg Distribution to Local Schools

On March 30th, five days before Easter Sunday, 1,740 eggs were delivered to schools throughout Santa Clara County by Flycaster members and friends.  Yes, fertilized steelhead eggs and not Easter eggs.

Probably, one of our lesser known program is the Salmon & Trout Education Program (STEP).  STEP provides K-12 students the means to learn first hand about salmon and steelhead life cycles, the habitats in which they live, conservation and the need to protect their environment.  A key component of the program is the rearing of fertilized steelhead eggs in classrooms for observation and study, plus the later release of Steelhead fry to their home watershed.

The purpose of this article is to place a spotlight on the important work performed by the Education Foundation and STEP.  The cost of the STEP program is funded by the Flycaster’s Education Foundation led by Don Chesarek and Hugh Miller through grants and donations.  Not only does it cost thousands of dollars to pay for teacher training, workshops, materials, aquariums, chillers, etc., but require many volunteer hours by the STEP team throughout the year.

Although the actual delivery of the eggs is one of the highlights, many activities are required to distribute 1,740 steelhead eggs to 58 classrooms in Santa Clara County.  Here are a few examples:


Coordination and planning with the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project

  • Coordination and planning with the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project Research Facility which operates the hatchery providing STEP with the fertilized steelhead eggs.
  • Administration and paperwork for government agencies.
  • Coordinating, preparing for and conducting 2 day workshops for participating teachers.
  • Setting up and repairing aquariums and chillers as required.  On the day before egg distribution, Hugh Miller and Bruce Keniston made a last minute response to repair 4 chillers in Gilroy.  Hugh and Bruce received the following email from Tina Fabela, first grade teachers at Rod Kelley School for their 4 hour effort:  “Thank you so much for taking the time to rescue us this afternoon.  You two ROCK!  Thanks a million.”
  • During the wee hours of March 30th, Hugh and his team drove to the Davenport fish hatchery to load 58 sandwich bags with 30 fertilized steelhead eggs each.  They returned to San Jose by 10:30AM and allotted volunteers their egg bags and permits for transportation to classrooms in Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Fremont, Morgan Hill and Gilroy.  Club volunteers included Bruce Keniston, Hugh Miller, Mondy Lariz, Bob Shoberg, Dave Turner, Mike Morsilli, Rod Terra, Don Chesarek , Vicky Knecht, Judy and Shiz Nakawatase.
  • Other volunteers included Sandy Derby-Bio Site Program director Children’s Discovery Museum, retired teacher Bob Vasconcellos, business owner Bruce Newhall, teacher Dan Mendez, and retired teacher, Dan Flanagan.


Rod Terra shares his experience – “I was very happy to be involved with the egg distribution.  I enjoyed the look on the teacher’s faces, but especially the kid’s.  Dave Turner answered all the questions.  --------- I asked if I could go on the field trip to release the fry and teacher Maya D’Anjou said that she would contact Hugh when it happens.  That would be another fun time.  My wife, Linda, said she would like to go also.”

Sandy Derby who delivered eggs to Blackford Elementary School stated:  “And I know that I had a great time with Leslie Anido’s students, having everyone help and talk through the process.”

The Blackford students wrote “Sandy Derby brought salmon eggs to Room 28 at Blackford Elementary School on Tuesday, March 30.  Three people counted the salmon eggs in the little plastic baggie and there were 31 eggs.  Sandy used a funnel and tube to put the eggs in the tank.  Students took turns holding the funnel and tube while Sandy spooned the eggs in the funnel.  The eggs landed in the small pebbles like a salmon nest called a redd.  Stickers were used to mark the placement of each egg so the students can count them each day and record the information in a “The Salmon Diaries”.  The students studied a salmon life cycle model to look closely at the next steps in the growth of their new fish.  The students feel very responsible for the eggs, just like parents!

When the eggs become fry the class will take a field trip to the mountains and release them into the fresh water of the San Lorenzo River.  The homeowners at Paradise Park make their beach wheelchair accessible so all students can participate in the release of the salmon fry.”

To all participants, thank you for your dedication, time and feed back.  As volunteers, you helped make STEP a success.

As you can see, STEP is an important education, community and conservation program.     So the next time you see Hugh Miller and Don Chesarek, you might take time to thank them for their time, leadership and effort.  Better yet, you might inquire as to how you can help with the STEP program.  Perhaps you can volunteer for a field trip involving the fry release and help with the many interesting and fun “on the water” experiments and experiences.

The photo shows Judy Nakawatase and Sandy Miller “planting” fertilized steelhead eggs in the Morrell Middle school aquarium tank.


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