Coastal Habitats & Species—Salmon Studies

Summary: Through the study salmon habitats, students learn the importance of watersheds to salmon, and how salmon are connected to both inland watersheds and the ocean.

Concepts to teach: Adaptations, survival, migration, freshwater vs. saltwater habitats

Goals: Students will learn about the unique life cycle and migration habits of salmon and how they find their way back to their freshwater breeding grounds.

6.2L.2, 6.3S.1, 7.3S.1, 8.3S.1

Specific Objectives:

  1. Describe the importance of watersheds to salmon life cycles.
  2. Identify adaptations that enable salmon to inhabit and navigate watersheds.
  3. Define the term “anadromous”

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Salmon Watch curriculum—Lessons in Unit 4 cover salmon anatomy, life cycles, adaptations and habitat requirements.
  • The 550-page Stream Scene curriculum is available in .pdf format on the ODFW website, and covers a variety of watershed topics. The chapter Aquatic Organisms contains several lessons having to do with salmon, including:
    • Riffles and Pools, p. 357—“Students will apply concepts learned about habitat needs of salmonids during their life cycle by completing a work sheet analyzing riffles and pools.”
    • Home Wet Home, p. 393—“Students will recognize the habitat components necessary for salmonids in a stream, and analyze and describe how each stream structure contributes to salmonid habitat needs.”
    • See the chapter Field Investigations for protocols of complimentary outdoor investigations.
  • StreamWebs—This student stewardship network from OSU Extension provides open-source, web-based tools for watershed data management, analysis, and networking for teachers and students. Includes data sheets students can use to assess the health of salmon habitats.
    • StreamWebs Data sheets
      • Water Quality
      • Riparian & Aquatic Survey
      • Riparian Transect
      • Photopoint Monitoring
      • Streamflow
      • Canopy Cover Survey
      • Soil Survey
      • Pebble Count
    • Post results on SteamWebs and seek out similar data collected by others
    • Identify habitats that are suitable for salmon
  • Salmon dissection resources available in the Elementary level Salmon Studies topic guide
  • Visit the Oregon Hatchery Research Center or a hatchery closer to your school
    • Do the self-guided OHRC Quest, which is a clue-directed interpretive hunt created by 8th graders at Crestview Heights School in Waldport
    • Make your own Quest or other interpretive guide that helps the public learn about salmon and salmon habitat


  • Post sampling data on StreamWebs and seek out similar data collected by others.
  • Determine whether your study site is suitable for salmon, and use data to explain why or why not.