Rolland-Warner students to release salmon raised from eggs into local watershed

The salmon tank in DuAnne Cook's classroom at Rolland-Warner Middle School.
The salmon tank in DuAnne Cook’s classroom at Rolland-Warner Middle School.

Sixth graders from RWMS will release their classroom’s hand-raised Chinook salmon at Noon on May 4, 2013 on the shore of the Black River in Clyde, MI. at the Port Huron State Game Area.

Parents and community members are invited to join in the fun! Watch the students as they plant their smolts into their new natal stream as the culmination of this year’s Department of Natural Resources Salmon in the Classroom Program. This release will add another hands-on component to the Great Lakes, watershed, and ecosystem lessons learned throughout the school year.

SIC is a yearlong natural resources education program in which teachers receive fertilized salmon eggs from a DNR fish hatchery in the fall, hatch them out, feed and raise the fry through spring, and then release the young salmon into a local river. As a bonus, there’s an entire curriculum to guide participants throughout the year.

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

“Even better, 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,” said Elkins. “That connection encourages a long-standing appreciation for Michigan’s natural resources and ecosystem health.”

The program has staying power. In Michigan schools for more than a decade, the number of schools participating has grown each year and now boasts 180 schools that will raise salmon through the 2012-13 school year.

To be accepted into Salmon in the Classroom, educators 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,” Elkins said.

The cost – about $1,200 – can be a significant hurdle for many schools, but Elkins said there are many generous sportsmen’s organizations and private donors willing to support schools with the needed funding. RWMS received funding from the Flint  River Valley Steelheaders. There’s also a lot of guidance available. In addition to Elkins, two DNR staffers – Shana Ramsey at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery and Craig Kasmer at Hartwick Pines State Park – co-coordinate SIC and serve as vital fish and tank experts who can answer lots of questions. Visit the Salmon in the Classroom web page to find out more at www.Michigan.gov/sic  .

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