- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (AP) - On the shore of the lower Escanaba River near Pioneer Park, 60 students in sixth and seventh grades from the local area gathered one morning recently to complete a final step in their yearlong science project.

The students, from both Iron Mountain and Kingsford schools, took the trip to Escanaba to release their hand-raised Chinook salmon into the river.

Instructed by Rhonda Carey of Central Middle School and Dan Carey of Kingsford Middle School, the students received the fertilized eggs in the fall and followed the process through to hatching them out, feeding and raising them until spring. The culminating activity for the students was the release their young salmon into a local river, The Daily News (https://bit.ly/1JcdH7z ) reported.

Both teachers got involved in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Salmon in the Classroom (SIC) Program with the goal have having the students plant their smolts in a new natal stream at the end of the year.

The students received help from Dick Sherwood and Dr. Jim Nicolas, who gave a presentation on the history of the Great Lakes along with information on salmon fishing.

The SIC is a yearlong natural resources program. The release adds another hands-on component to the Great Lakes, watershed and ecosystem lessons learned throughout the year.

“Salmon in the Classroom teaches students about everything — from the history of fish to the importance of the Great Lakes and fishing to Michigan’s traditions and way of life,” noted Natalie Elkins, a DNR educational specialist who oversees the program for the department.

She added that SIC is a great place-based educational effort that ties right back to the kids’ communities.

“Students get invested in and excited about their local rivers and streams, knowing that the smolts they released will return to the very same spot in two to three years to spawn,” Elkins said.

That connection encourages long-standing appreciation for Michigan’s natural resources and ecosystem health, she said.

The yearlong natural resources program, SIC, was selected by the two teachers, who received an entire curriculum to guide their students throughout the year. They received the fertilized salmon from a DNR fish hatchery in the fall and then hatched them out, fed them, and raised them until they were ready to be released in the spring into a local river.

The SIC program has been around in Michigan schools for more than 10 years with the number of schools growing each year. During the 2012-13 year, 180 schools raised salmon using the program.

To be accepted into the program, teachers must commit to teaching their students about the Great Lakes ecosystem and fisheries management by raising salmon for almost the entire school year.

“It also requires a commitment on the part of the schools to purchase the necessary equipment including a tank, chiller and other supplies,” Dan Carey noted.

Rhonda Carey noted that the cost is about $1,200, which can be a significant hurdle for many schools.

She added that the students have maintained the tank by doing water quality tests, tank cleaning and feeding the fish. Students have also done many classroom activities related to the Great Lakes salmon and their life cycle.

The teachers both expressed their appreciation to Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County and the Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District to support four local schools with the funding needed for the program.

In addition to Central Middle School and Kingsford Middle School, other schools participating in the program were Norway and Bishop Baraga Catholic School.


Information from: The Daily News, https://www.ironmountaindailynews.com

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