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Impossible Salmon Tag

In this game, students learn some of the threats to salmon at different stages of their life cycle. In the wild, it is estimated that out of 2,500 eggs of Coho salmon, only two survive to become spawners for the next generation. This game will put students in the figurative shoes of salmon to discover the dangers that salmon face.


  • Identify each stage of the salmon life cycle.
    Identify factors (natural and human-made) that affect salmon survival.


  • Open space

Key Questions

  • What dangers do salmon face throughout their life cycle?What is the survival rate of salmon?What are some survival techniques that salmon use to protect themselves from danger?

What To Do

This is a classic tag game that starts out easy for those who have to run and escape, but gradually gets to be impossible for the salmon involved.

  1. Before the game starts, brainstorm salmon predators and human caused dangers that salmon face throughout their life cycle. Let students know that these influences will be added throughout the game.
  2. Before game play, review the positions students should take to represent each stage of salmon life cycle. For example, students can act like eggs by crouching low to the ground. They can waddle if they are a fry and swim when they become adult salmon and spawners. Remind students that they need to maintain these positions as they run around during the game.
  3. Let students know that the teacher will announce when it is time for salmon to enter the next stage of the life cycle. Depending on how long they last in the game, they may move through the entire life cycle (eggs, alevins, fry, smolts, adult salmon and spawners) or they may “die” if they encounter a danger or predator.
  4. Let students know that everyone starts off as an egg and then the teacher will pick someone to become a predator/danger. The new predator/danger will go around chasing and tagging the eggs. Once a player has been tagged, he or she will sit out until the next round begins. (Adapt this as necessary for the group.)
  5. As the game commences, gradually, add in more predators/dangers. Eventually the students will be mostly predators/dangers and very few salmon players should remain.
  6. If a player is about to be tagged, he or she may link up with another player for only five seconds. This mimics the ability of salmon to swim in schools and appear to look like a larger animal so that they will not get attacked. While students are linked up, they cannot be tagged.
  7. If the game ends very quickly, you can re-start but at the next salmon stage. This will help students review the different stages of the salmon life cycle and see the different predators and human caused dangers that salmon encounter throughout the different stages of their life cycle.


  • You can replay this game as much as possible, with as many or as few predators or dangers as you need.If the players are getting tagged too quickly, you can also add a safe zone of “deep water”. There, salmon can breathe and be safe for a few seconds.