Students learn about life through salmon
Written by Grand Rapids Press   
Thursday, 12 May 2005 15:15
With waves and shouts, first-graders from Comstock Park's Stony Creek Elementary School said goodbye to 100 young salmon they raised from eggs since fall.

The 6-inch fish were recently released into Mill Creek at Dwight Lydell Park. Some darted downstream; some immediately hid in weeds, and some began fighting the current.

Before the big release, the children gathered around a cooler that volunteers from the Grand Rapids Steelheaders used to transport the fish from Stony Creek's 50-gallon aquarium.

"There's mine!" some of them shouted.

How could they tell the speckled fish apart?

"Mine's long."

"Mine's fat."

"Mine's short."

The 163 first-graders have been measuring the fish since they hatched. They have drawn pictures and graphs to record their progress, learned body parts, observed habits and studied life cycles.

They know the non-native salmon will make their way to Lake Michigan, and the few that survive will return to Mill Creek to lay eggs in three years.

Through the efforts of the Michigan Steelheaders, more than 20 schools around the state, including Grand Rapids' C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy and John Ball Park Zoo School, learn first hand about salmon life cycles.

The nonprofit group provides aquariums and supplies and obtains eggs and food from the state Department of Natural Resources for any school with staff committed to maintaining them.

"It's quite a program because it's real educational for the kids," said W.F. "Bud" Potts, a member of the 800-member Grand Rapids chapter.

Stony Creek teacher Ellen Clark said the science curriculum project gets students excited and keeps their interest.

Last fall, the school brought fourth-graders, the first to watch the salmon grow as first-graders, to the fish ladder on the Grand River. Their fish were scheduled to be returning to Mill Creek at the time. Potts said children watching fish jump the steps argued over which one was which.

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