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Salmon in the Classroom a great addition to schools

It’s easier to understand how fish grow when you actually watch them.

Throughout the school year, area schools have been participating in the Salmon in the Classroom program in which the Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides the fish eggs, and the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited helps with equipment and stocking.

Schools in districts throughout the Upper Peninsula have been taking part in releases over the last week or so, much to the students’ enthusiasm.

Each year, aquariums are supplied with 200 salmon eggs in late November, provided by the DNR. Teachers and students raise the salmon until near the end of the school year when they take a field trip to a local salmon habitat and release the fish into the stream.

Iron Mountain students are scheduled to release salmon on May 31 at the Dead River below Tourist Park Dam in Marquette at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

As with many school curricula, textbooks form the basis of learning, but hands-on activities — especially when they deal with live animals — add so much more to the experience.

Not only is the learning more animated, students can experience different things day to day.

A fish, for instance, constantly grows, and a class can watch this daily instead of looking at a growth chart.

They also have the gratification of feeding the fish and taking care of their temporary “pets.”

With Salmon in the Classroom, the fish are released into the wild so they can experience life outside the aquarium.

Again, youngsters can watch this happen, acclimating the fish to the cold water — while they’re in plastic bags — before they are released into their new home.

Who knows how long the salmon will live in Gitchee Gumee, for example?

Really, though, the purpose of the salmon program is not adding great numbers of salmon in the wild, but to teach fish ecology to kids and let them raise the fish in the classroom.

The project, which goes beyond classes simply having a single goldfish in a bowl that they nurture throughout the year, is a great way for students to learn a bit of environmental management and actually have a hand in it.

During the winter period, the teachers incorporate the salmon into many of their lesson plans such as environment, fish habitat, conservation, and water quality.

We salute the Fred Waara Chapter as well as the DNR for helping kids learn more about conservation and water quality through this program.

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