ST. NICHOLAS - A group of students from Mid Peninsula School are learning how to contribute to the ecosystem by raising and releasing fish in local waters.
Eighth graders released 25 chinook salmon fingerlings into the Escanaba River at the boat launch at Pioneer Trail Park earlier this month.
"They have to be released before they try to import," said Duane Englund, explaining that if the fish are released too late, they will try to spawn back to the fish tank at the school in St. Nicholas.
Mid Peninsula eighth graders, from left, Cassidy Hanson, Zackary Steinmetz and Mitch Barron work together to clean a fish tank at the school. The class is participating in a Salmon-raising program organized through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
Science teacher Robin Seymour said the fish are released when they grow to more than three inches and their stripes are fading.
The educational project is a cooperative effort between the school, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited of Marquette.
The DNR provided training for teachers in the region whose students participated in the agency's "Salmon in the Classroom" program.
The trout club donated the 75-gallon tank for the Mid Peninsula project along with the stand, fish food, chemical-testing sticks, and the fish eggs.
Eighth grader Mitch Barron explained that in November the class received 240 fertilized "eye eggs" meaning the fish are at a growth stage where their eyes stick out of the eggs.
For more than five months, the students cared for the fish which were in a tank in the main hallway at the school where everyone could watch their progress.
The class had to clean the tank daily and exchange water every so often. Students monitored the water's pH level, which stands for potential hydrogen, by using chemically-treated strips of paper to test oxygen and acid levels. The tank's temperature was also monitored.
In addition to watching the fish grow during the school year, the class learned about the life cycle of the salmon and their unique characteristics, said student Keith Newcombe.
Seymour said students involved in the "Salmon in the Classroom" program not only learn about the fish and the chemistry of the water, they discuss such issues as conservation and pollution.
After the class released their fingerlings into the Escanaba River, the group went to the DNR fish hatchery in Thompson where they learned more about fisheries management, said Seymour.
During their field trip, the class visited Big Springs, also known as Kichitikipi, located northwest of Manistique. The students were able to view large trout swimming in the crystal-clear spring-fed waters.
The Mid Peninsula eighth graders were among 180 schools in the state which participated in the salmon-raising program this school year, according to the DNR website.
Other area schools involved in fish-raising projects include Escanaba Upper Elementary, Emerald Elementary in Manistique, and Superior Central School in Eben.