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Compose a stream song

Support may be available

Contact your local Stream to Sea Education Coordinator or Community Advisor to find out if an Education Coordinator in your area assists with this activity.

Prescribed learning outcomes and curriculum organizers

Music 6

Lesson overview

Overview of activity

In this activity students visit a stream and are inspired to compose their own song. By listening to a CD of fellow students from the Greater Victoria area who worked with singer/songwriter Holly Arntzen, they learn that they, too, can create music! The first step in their song-writing journey is a field-trip to a river or stream. They describe the place they visited by keeping a nature journal, storytelling or by making a map. The field-trip is followed by as much follow-up research and study on the riparian (streamside) or in-stream environment as time allows. When the students know the place, they compose a song either individually or as a class.

Estimate of time required

Overview of materials and resources required

Listen to "Oh, I'm a Salmon" (mp3). The "Oh, I'm a Salmon" song is written and performed by students at Stoney Creek Elementary, Burnaby.

Other required material

Recommended additional resources and optional enrichment activities

(E.g. Web-sites, Teaching Guides, Student Reading, Videos/Audio-tapes, Posters and Brochures, Field Trips)

Activity description

What to look for


Time required

One lesson, plus follow-up time after the field trip

Level of conceptual difficulty


Suggestions for assessment

Review student handouts and monitor in-class discussion to ensure that the students can observe and describe a variety of phenomena from nature.




Discuss with the class similarities and differences between their observations and the list of what they expected to see. If necessary, prompt them with questions, such as:

Rules for salmon habitat study

These activities make a valuable extension to the units on the egg, alevin and fry, especially if your school has a classroom egg incubation tank and will be releasing the fry into a local stream.


Copies of Handout 11.3: Salmon Habitat Study No.1 for each student

Time required

One lesson

Level of conceptual difficulty:


Suggestions for assessment:

Monitor pairs and class discussion to ensure that the students can explain all the rules.

Advance preparation

Review any rules your school has regarding student safety around water and ensure that adequate precautions are in place. Some streams and lakes may be hazardous for young children, particularly if there are strong currents, slippery rocks or unstable banks.


Compose a song

Brainstorm with the children, responses to the following:

Collaborative songwriting

drawing of eagles

Students work in pairs. One develops a new question to "ask the boatman"; the other gives an answer. Switch roles and repeat. Together create alternate lyrics for the rest of the first repeat. Together create alternate lyrics for the rest of the first verse. Record these ideas. Some more musically adept individuals may even make their new lyrics fit the music. Those who love to sing can perform compositions for the rest of the group.

Describing your favourite place


Keeping a nature journal


A nature journal can be used to record the history of a place or person. It is first-hand research. With journals in their hands, students pay better attention to the world around them and their feeling towards it. Famous naturalists, from Charles Darwin to Robert Bateman, have kept journals.

There are three typical types of journal entries:

  1. Free writing in a natural setting. Give children time to write what they see and are thinking about
  2. Suggested entries. Use this technique to focus the students on their favourite place. Use prompts such as: What is your favourite place and why? What would you show someone if you took them on a walk through this place? How is your mood affected by this place? What animals and plants do you share this place with? What are the patterns and rhythms of the place? What kind of places do you dislike? Why? Imagine being in this place a whole year
  3. Assigned entries. Any of the above prompts can become an assigned question, providing one way to evaluate learning. It is also helpful for discussion if everyone has been given the same question

The overall goal is to help students become lifelong observers and journal writers. Achieving the balance between instruction and leaving students to observe and reflect is critical.

Student handouts

Handout 11.1: Rules for salmonid habitat study

  1. Follow directions.
  2. Stay in your groups.
  3. Walk only. Do not run.
  4. Play only where allowed.
  5. Stay on the paths.
  6. Do not pick plants.
  7. Do not disturb fish or other animals.
  8. Take your things with you when you leave

Handout 11.3: Salmon habitat study no. 1

On the salmon habitat study, I think

I will see
I will hear
I will touch
I will smell

Handout 11.4: Salmon habitat study no. 2

On the salmon habitat study, I think

I can see
I can hear
I can touch
I can smell

Background information

Salmon habitat study

Small streams and lakes produce most of the West Coast's fish, including six salmon species and over 80 species of freshwater fish. Salmon all spawn in shallow water, and many species spend a year or more in the stream or lake after they hatch. Salmon habitat is easily damaged by logging and mining activities, by urban and industrial construction, and by pollution. Many of these practices are changing to protect streams and revitalize streams that have been damaged in the past.


At every stage in their life, salmon need clean water that is between 5?C and 10?C and which contains oxygen. A healthy salmon stream has a mix of fast running water and deep pools. Fast running water washes over rocks in riffles and picks up oxygen. Deep pools that form at the edge of a stream and in the water behind rocks, logs or other debris allow salmon to rest from the current and hide from predators. Cloudy water contains silt and mud that can smother eggs and irritate the gills of young salmon. Cloudy water also makes it harder for salmon fry to find and catch food.

Young salmon are very sensitive to pollutants in the water. Household chemicals like bleach, soap, oil or paint can be fatal if people dump them into a stream. Many pollutants enter streams through storm sewers, which carry rainwater from paved streets to nearby streams. Pollutants dumped down storm drains can kill salmon and wildlife in nearby streams.

Stream banks and lakeshores

The gravel bottom of a salmon stream or lake contains a mix of rock sizes. Salmon need gravel to spawn, but once the alevin emerge, the presence of pools and riffles is more important. The slope and curves in the streambed are important to control the flow of water and reduce flooding during storms.

Stream banks lined with plants soak up water during heavy rain and release it slowly into the stream. Marshes and similar wetlands also absorb rainfall to prevent flooding and reduce the chance of streams and lakes drying out in hot weather. Bushes and trees growing along the banks of a stream create shade and keep the water cool in the summer, keep the banks stable and allow salmon to hide in the shadows. Insects live in the vegetation along the banks and fall into the water as food for salmon. To protect the stream banks, laws prohibit construction or logging near the streams.


Salmon fry catch tiny insects that float past them. As they grow, the salmon can catch larger insects and caterpillars that fall into the stream or lake, as well as mayflies and stoneflies that land on the water to lay their eggs. When they are large enough, the salmon can eat smaller fish in the stream or lake.


People disturb streams and lakeshores and their natural residents when they remove the vegetation, divert the water flow, pollute the water or build docks. People can erode the banks by playing or driving along the edges of a stream or lake. They can crush salmon eggs in the gravel or expose them at a very sensitive stage. People and pets sometimes harass spawning salmon in shallow streams or leave garbage at the site.

But people can also protect and restore streams and lakes. Many groups and individuals act as streamkeepers, conducting stream inventories and monitoring environmental health, working for the streams' protection, replanting and restoring streams that have been damaged or buried in culverts. People should be conscious that they share the stream with others and that every organism contributes to the health of the ecosystem.

Making music introduction


It's a thrill to be part of making a beautiful group sound. The idea here is to make every music lesson like a concert... mostly music, just a little discussion... and to move smoothly from one activity to the next. The most important activity for learning the songs is to sing along with the CD, while reading lyrics displayed by an overhead projector.

Desirable elements to include in your music lessons are listening, singing, rhythm and movement. If possible, build up to including all elements each time you sing together. Outcomes include becoming more active listeners and confident singers, acquiring a vocabulary of rhythms and ways to apply them, learning a repertoire of songs, and movement to music.

In Part One, songs are presented in the order they appear on the CD. Each song has one or more activities, and these progress in a learning sequence. Once learned, an activity can be used with more than one song.

Music progression

music cartoon

If you want to start with songs that are musically the easiest to learn, here they are in order from easy to difficult:


Teaching a new song

When children have learned more than one song

Pigeon Guillemot

Rhythm: A vocabulary







1 = is called a stem - a pulse beat, the sound your feet make when you walk or march.



lost her


1-1 = two stems joined by a beam is the sound your feet make when you run.





& = rest for one beat. No sound. If moving, don't step during the rest.





1 1 1 amp; = Three steps, then pause for one beat

Talk is


talk is


All that


is not


Rhythm: Activities

Speech patterns

Follow the leader


Rhythm ostinato

Basic movement

Interpretive movement

Some survival rules

Ask the boatman

Notes from Holly

I spent a couple of years living near the Arran Rapids on Stuart Island, at the mouth of Bute Inlet. In the winter, hurricane-force winds of cold arctic air sometimes funnel down Bute Inlet and blow so strong you can't stand up. In this part of the west coast ocean tides flush through narrow channels, causing currents that can reach over 26 kilometres per hour. The Arran Rapids are like a fast-flowing river that changes directions. Its huge standing waves and overfalls, massive boils of seawater, and 30-40 foot whirlpools have capsized many a boat. All this action brings up herring and hake-food for salmon, cod, seals and sea lions. In the spring dozens of bald eagles gather to feed on the abundant sea life; black bears roam the beaches grazing on barnacles, crabs and shellfish.

The first day I arrived at the Rapids was August 20, 1996... my 43rd birthday. An eagle flew overhead and one of its long white tail feathers dropped on the road. Stephen, my husband, picked it up and gave it to me saying, "Happy Birthday." A year later, Stephen was investigating a cougar's den in the forest by the rapids. At the den's entrance he found a second white eagle feather which he also gave to me. First Nations people regard eagle feathers as sacred. They bring a responsibility to bear witness and communicate what you see.

The day we left Arran Point we asked the water taxi skipper to take us one last time through the rapids. I will always remember seeing the white heads of more than 100 bald eagles amongst the dark green trees along the shore.

Ask the boatman

drawing of eagle feathers

by Holly Arntzen / Stephen Foster

Verse 1 :


Verse 2:

Repeat Chorus

Lesson Plan Written by Theresa Southam and edited by Elizabeth Leboe.

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