Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife

Lesson plan: Understanding salmon


Grade Level:

9-12 (secondary school)

Time Required:

One sixty minute class


In this three-part lesson, students will have the opportunity to learn about the physiology and characteristics of the Pacific salmon. They will investigate the location and range of the Pacific salmon in Canada. Finally, they will use a case study of the Fraser River to investigate reasons for low salmon return rates in the region.

Main Objective

The primary objective of this lesson is for students to understand and appreciate the complexities of our interactions with Pacific salmon.

Curriculum Connection

British Columbia, Grade 12 Geography

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe several characteristics of the Pacific salmon.
  • Locate and identify the range of the Pacific salmon using maps. Compare with another species in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Explain and analyse possible threats to Pacific salmon migrating through the Fraser River watershed.




Ask students questions about the Pacific salmon to assess their knowledge of the species prior to the lesson. (Examples include:  How many species of Pacific salmon in BC? Names? Difference between Atlantic and Pacific salmon? Migration patterns?)

Inform students that they will be using several resources to learn more about the Pacific Salmon.

Distribute the student activity sheet, the Canadian Geographic article and place a copy of the poster map somewhere in the classroom. (All of the other required resources are accessible through the Internet.)

Review the instructions and decide if students will work individually or in partners.

Lesson Development

Monitor and provide assistance to students as they complete the activity.


Option A:  Conduct a class discussion of the students’ findings.

Option B:  Collect the responses for assessment.



Participate in class discussion.

Refer to Student Activity Sheet instructions.  Ask questions for clarification.

Lesson Development

Complete all three sections of the Student Activity worksheet.


Participate in the discussion or submit the completed assignment.

Lesson Extension

This lesson could serve as an introduction to a larger research project.  Students could choose one issue affecting Pacific salmon to investigate.  Potential research topics include:

  • Aquaculture
  • Climate Change
  • Invasive Species
  • Habitat destruction
  • Overfishing
  • Toxins in Watersheds

Download this lesson

If you do not have Acrobat Reader®, please click on the following link Adobe Reader to download it from the Adobe® Web site.

If you do not have an RTF viewer, please click on the following link Word Viewer to download it from the Microsoft's Web site.