Michigan high school students release salmon in Grand River

MONICA SCOTTMLive.com Published:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- Jenison High School freshmen Keaton Spielmaker eagerly donned his waders and boots, entered the Grand River and released two cups of the Chinook salmon he and his biology classmates raised from eggs.

Karina White's five biology classes are among 18,000 students in 140 schools across the state involved in the "Salmon in the Classroom" program through the state Department of Natural Resources.

White picked up 300 green eggs (just fertilized) in October from the Little Manistee weir, an egg-take and salmon harvest facility, and put them in a 55-gallon tank in her class.

"From the beginning, it has been really interesting and fun to watch them grow and go through the stages of life," said Spielmaker, 16, of Jenison, emerging from the river by the boat launch in Grand River County Park.

White's class earlier this month released 100 Chinook salmon.

Sierra Samuels, 15, of Holland, said one of the things you learn is there are many reasons why the majority of these salmon die. She was among more than two dozen students gathered around the tank with nets trying to catch the fast-moving salmon to place in three buckets.

"I learned a lot watching how they grow and develop into fish," Samuels said.

White said the salmon program adds to everything she teaches in biology, including reproduction. She said students observe the whole life cycle from the egg hatching to the swimming off.

"It's a great way for kids to be engaged in something they can check on daily," White said. "They really like the different transitions, including when the eggs start to change and they can see their eyes." It is really exciting for them to see the bodies form."

Jeremy Krueger, 15, of Jenison, captured it perfectly saying, "This is some really cool stuff."

Upon entering the class for the field trip, Krueger took pen to paper and began naming the fish, beginning with Bob and ending with Isaiah. The fish that perished: John F. Kennedy.

Why the names? He said, "because they are all special in their own way."

Students took turns putting on the waders and boots heading into the water. Others watched from the deck and shore, offering encouragement and direction as each cup of five salmon was taken into the river.

"We like the program because it builds awareness of our natural resources and the protections that we offer them," said Natalie Elkins, co-coordinator of the salmon in the classroom program for DNR. "It is a unique, super cool program, a living resource in the classroom."

Elkins said teachers had been raising the fish but in 2008 DNR decided to put a formal program behind it for third through 12th-grade students.

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