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Salmonopoly: Design Your Own Board Game

In this activity, students get to design their own salmon board game!

This make and take reinforces the structure and function of the spawner salmon’s hooked mouth and provides students with an opportunity to be creative and design their own stream or river environment.

Salmon in the spawner life stage differ from the adult stage in a number of important ways. Spawner salmon typically have brighter colouring, to better find and attract mates. Their head shapes, and in particular their mouths, are also different; spawners have more of a ‘hooked’ or curved shape to their mouths. This aids them in grabbing on to rocks and other objects as they make the arduous journey upstream against the current.

As the salmon travel upstream, they will face many challenges or hazards and experience some beneficial effects. The following are some common hazards and benefits.


  • Predators (bears, eagles, fishermen)
  • Environment (log jam, whirlpool, diverted stream, landslide from clear-cut hillside, pollution: soap, detergent, waste oil, gasoline, household cleaners, mining tailings, plastic bags)


  • Human built salmon ladder (area  with slower current)
  • Beaver dam (beneficial to juvenile salmon development as the pool provides some protection from predators)


  • Identify each stage of the salmon life cycle.


  • Per student:
    Spawner salmon template
    Popsicle stick
    10 paper clips (buy a box of 300 for the entire class)
    Pencil crayons
    Glue sticks
    Cardstock paper
    Ziploc bags (optional)

Key Questions

  • How do spawner salmon differ from adult salmon?What is the purpose of the hooked shape of the spawner salmon’s mouth?What types of hazards might hinder the salmon’s progress as it travels upstream? What things might help the salmon’s progress upstream?

What To Do


  1. Take a paper clip and twist it so it breaks in half (you will now have two “hooks”). Using the pliers, bend each hook part so it is more curved and “hook-like.”
  2. Secure each hook to a popsicle stick with tape, making sure the hook part faces away from the popsicle stick.
  3. Print out enough copies of the spawner salmon template for a class set. Print them small, in “contact sheet” format of 35 images per sheet. Cut each template out.
  4. (Optional) Pre-divide the supplies per student by filling each Ziploc bag with 1 popsicle with hook attached, 1 salmon template and the paper clips.


  1. Before handing out supplies, and with input from the students, make a list of hazards and a list of benefits which salmon will encounter. See the Introduction section for some examples to expand the lists so the students have more options.


  1. Hand out 1 bag of supplies to each student, and distribute pencil crayons. Students can colour in their salmon template if they wish.
  2. Have students glue the salmon template to the popsicle stick, so that the salmon’s mouth is facing the location of the hook.
  3. Hand out one sheet of cardstock paper to each student. Using the pencil crayons, students can draw their river/stream environment however they want. Encourage them to be creative. Inform them to include a combination of the hazards and benefits from the lists along their stream. These will make up the game spaces of the board.
  4. Let students know that a paper clip will be inserted at each game space for the salmon to hook onto as it progresses along the board. To insert the paper clips, bend the end of the paper clip outwards, then use the end to poke a hole into the cardstock.
  5. To play Salmonopoly, use a coin and flip it. If the coin lands heads, move forward one space. If it lands tails, move forward two spaces.
  6. Encourage students to compete on each other’s game boards. The first one to reach the spawning grounds at the end of the river/stream wins!