History of Kokanee Karnival

Table of Contents

  1. How It All Began
  2. The Spawning of Ideas

TOPHow It All Began

Kokanee Karnival Youth Education Program is a non-profit Central Oregon organization providing river and lake stewardship education to fourth and fifth grade students in Central Oregon. The program founders chose to spell “karnival” with a “k” to match “kokanee” and to reinforce the program name. Kokanee Karnival had its formal beginning in September 1996 when Central Oregon Flyfishers (COF), Sunriver Anglers (SRA), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and the USDA Deschutes National Forest sponsored an outdoor field trip for three local schools. During this field trip, students observed spawning kokanee salmon and rotated through three stations while volunteer instructors taught lessons about the kokanee life cycle, food needs, and habitat requirements. With the proverb, “Tell me, I forget...Show me, I remember...Involve me, I understand” in mind, volunteers sparked kids’ interest in salmon and trout and the natural world.

On May 10, 1997 these same organizations held the first Angler Education “Kids Angling Clinic.” More than 100 students (limited to those students participating in Kokanee Karnival the previous September) were invited to attend. Using the Responsible Angling course developed by ODFW, volunteers and teachers first taught sections of the program in the school classroom. The clinic began at Pilot Butte Middle School in Bend where Kokanee Karnival volunteers taught the remainder of the program. At noon, students were taken to Shevlin Pond in Bend. They received spin cast instruction and fished, many for the first time.

By 1999, ten elementary schools, about 350 students, were annually participating in a four-part program that included two field trips, raising trout in the classroom, and a community stewardship project. A fish hatchery component was added to the fall field trip portion of the program. At Fall River Hatchery, kids learned how fish are raised in a controlled environment, how fish are stocked, and why we have fish hatcheries.

Presently, the Kokanee Karnival Youth Education Program, managed as a non-profit organization, is supported by the efforts of many groups: COF, SRA, two ODFW Programs--Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) and the Aquatic and Angler Education Program (AE), Deschutes National Forest, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Representatives from these groups form the Kokanee Karnival Steering Committee. Their responsibilities include the complete direction, development, and implementation of the Kokanee Karnival programs. The chairperson is an appointed member of the Central Oregon Flyfishers Board of Directors. The steering committee applies for grants and receives donations from organized groups (mainly COF/SRA) and many individuals to support the program. Steering committee members are required to report to their respective organizations.

Kokanee Karnival participation has grown over the years, expanding in program components and classroom participation. Elective components (Fish Eggs to Fry, Angler Education, Fish Dissection, and Community Stewardship) are taught in the classroom. Teachers choose one or more of the electives for their class.

The more-detailed comprehensive component includes all of the electives, a community stewardship project, and two hands-on field participation programs. The fall streamside education field program is conducted in late September, and classes are assigned to attend at Spring Creek, a tributary of the Metolius River near Camp Sherman, or Browns Creek, a tributary of Wickiup Reservoir on the Deschutes River. The Browns Creek program also includes the Hatchery Experience taught at the ODFW Fall River Hatchery.

The second field program is held in late April at Aspen Hall and Shevlin Pond. In the morning, classes rotate through four stations: Care of the Catch, Casting and Water Safety, Knot Tying, and Fishing Equipment. Volunteers prepare and serve lunch. Students fish for trout in Shevlin Pond in the afternoon. Each student who catches a fish receives a First Fish certificate. Due to the intensity of the comprehensive program, participation is limited to 12 classes. There are no restrictions on the number of elective participants.

From Kokanee Karnival’s humble beginnings at a meeting of dedicated volunteers in 1996, it has become one of the premier youth education fishing programs in Oregon. We now sponsor an annual average of 30 classes in Angler Education, 45 classes in Fish Eggs to Fry, and 40 classes in Fish Dissection. While Kokanee Karnival focuses on classes in the Bend/La Pine and Redmond School Districts, participants include students from Bend, Camp Sherman, Culver, Gilchrist, La Pine, Madras, Redmond, Sisters, Sunriver, and Terrebonne.

TOPThe Spawning of Ideas

The outdoor environment is a significant factor in the Central Oregon economy and life-style. The multitude of outdoor activities lures more and more visitors and permanent residents each year. These people help sustain the local economy. However, the ever-increasing number of people can place a significant burden on the environment.

To help sustain, improve, and develop an appreciation of Central Oregon’s unique outdoor environment, it is important to teach young students about the region’s natural resources, especially its water and fisheries resources. Central Oregon elementary schools do not have sufficient funds or manpower to plan, organize, equip, and conduct educational projects with a field component.

During 1996, a cooperative planning effort involving teachers, representatives from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Salmon-Trout Enhancement Program (ODFW-STEP) and the Deschutes National Forest (DNF), and members of The Central Oregon Flyfishers took place. The result is the Kokanee Karnival Youth Education Program, a multi-part, hands-on program that fills the gap in natural resource education and helps students achieve Oregon’s Education Standards. Although limited by funding and the number of volunteers who participate, the program is available to as many schools as possible within the Central Oregon tri-county area.

Since 1996, an average of 30 classrooms have participated in the program each year.