Forests and Fins

Salmon are a vital part of Pacific Northwest ecosystems.

The Greenway Education Program invites youth and their families to learn about Pacific Northwest salmon by watching these videos and completing the paired activities. You’ll learn about salmon life cycle stages, habitat needs, threats, and how you can help protect them.

***New! Scroll to the bottom for a virtual field trip***

How to use these videos: watch a video, do the activity, and repeat! We look forward to seeing what you create! As you complete the activities, send us an email at, and we might share them on social media.

1) Introduction

Learn the names of Pacific Northwest salmon species on your fingers. Salmon Fingers activity.

2) Egg

The stronger and healthier salmon are when they leave their freshwater stream, the better chance they have of returning as spawners. This video explains some key elements of a healthy salmon stream and invites you to create a model of a salmon stream using paper. Salmon Stream Model activity.

3) Alevin

An important part of a health salmon stream is the plants growing alongside the stream (in the riparian zone). Use our plant identification sheets to ID native and non-native invasive plants growing in your neighborhood, and then make a fact sheet!

Plant Fact Sheets activity with examples
Native Plant ID Sheet
Non-Native Invasive Plant ID Sheet

4) Fry

At this stage, salmon start venturing out of their nest (redd) to explore their habitat and hunt for bugs. These bugs, called aquatic macroinvertebrates, are an indicator species. This means the kind and amount of macroinvertebrates found in a stream tell us something about the quality of the water. In this video, we invite you to create your own macroinvertebrate using household items. Build a Macroinvertebrate activity.

5) Smolt

Salmon can travel hundreds of miles to get to the ocean. Throughout this journey, they rely on cold, clean, clear water — which we can measure! Learn how the Greenway Education Program measures the temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphate, and turbidity. Then, using Google Maps to find a stream near your home and follow it to the Puget Sound, looking for potential sources of source and non-point source pollution along the way.

6) Adult

Salmon spend a few years in the ocean and face many threats. In this video, we discuss habitat loss, irresponsible development, dams, culverts, and overfishing. And we show you how to play a game that models overfishing using popcorn or a similar snack food. Sustainable Fishing activity.

7) Spawner

Using their amazing sense of smell, salmon swim back to the stream where they were born, pouring all their energy into producing and fertilizing eggs. They bring nutrients from the ocean back to the freshwater ecosystem. (Researchers have found that trees near salmon streams get 25 to 70 percent of their nutrients from salmon!) Salmon are connected with many, many different organisms from bears to trees to birds to fungi. We invite you to draw an ecosystem web showing all the connections you can think of in a Pacific Northwest forest. Ecosystem Connections Drawing activity.

8) Conclusion

At the Greenway Trust, we think it’s really important to take care of our Pacific Northwest salmon. We do that by helping people be stewards of this landscape.  Stewards are caretakers. Now that you know what makes a healthy salmon stream, we invite you to draw the healthiest salmon stream you can imagine.

Here are some of our ideas for being stewards of nature.

9) Virtual Field Trip!

Join a Greenway Educator for a Forests and Fins field study trip along the Tolt River in Carnation, WA. You’ll see how we figure out if the river is healthy habitat for salmon by studying four aspects of stream health: (1) the riparian zone, or the area along the stream where the plants grow, (2) the stream channel, (3) macroinvertebrates, or stream bugs, (4) and the water chemistry. After you watch the investigation, we invite you to use the data to determine whether or not the Tolt River provides healthy habitat for salmon. Print this Virtual Field Trip Worksheet ahead of time so you can follow along with Val and make your own conclusion! We also made a list of key vocabulary terms for your reference.

If you would like a copy of the Forests and Fins science journal, email our Education Program Manager at


Forests and Fins is funded by
Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed
King County Flood Control District
King County Wastewater Treatment Division
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove