For the past eight to 10 years, sixth-grade teacher Shane Mattingly has been catching fish and bringing them into his classrooms for dissection.

“We'd have some reds, some pinks and some silvers, and they kind of get to check all of them out,” Mattingly said.

Now in his first year at College Gate Elementary School, Mattingly has brought his dissection project with him.

With the help of teachers, volunteers and a biologist, the school's sixth-graders helped first-grade students in the Yup'ik Immersion Program dissect the fish to learn more about them. 

"I think it's a super important part of Alaskan education especially for this age group to get out and touch things that are still math, science, writing, reading," Mattingly said. "It's easy to translate to all the different curriculums you want to teach."

The first-grade students watched as the sixth-graders, while somewhat repulsed at first, eventually gave way to their own curiosity. The first-graders held organs and listened as the sixth-graders named off their findings.

"It's a basic science, biology,” biologist Josh Moffi said. “For a lot of them, this is their first time getting to open up an animal.”

Near the end of the session, the school's second class of Yup'ik immersion students, the kindergartners came in for a quick view.

"It's hand-on," Moffi said. "Something they can see, and touch and feel."

It's also something the students will be able to taste. The students learned how to fillet, brine and smoke the fish and should be able to try their product on Thursday.

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