Feature fish

Besser students learn with salmon in the classroom

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Besser Elementary School fifth-graders Casey Vanvolkenburg and Cayden Smith on Tuesday look at the Chinook salmon their class is raising this school year.

ALPENA — Besser Elementary School fifth-graders are learning about the lifecycle of Chinook salmon this school year.

Teacher Allison Hartmeyer said students are learning why the Great Lakes have salmon, when the fish are supposed to be native to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

“They’re learning about invasive species,” Hartmeyer said. “I’m teaching them about why these salmon are introduced to the Great Lakes and that they’re good for the Great Lakes’ ecosystem.”

The salmon are in Hartmeyer’s classroom as a part of the Salmon in the Classroom program, a yearlong program in which teachers receive fertilized salmon eggs from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fish hatchery in the fall, hatch them, feed them, and raise them through the spring.

The salmon will be released in May into the Thunder Bay River. Hartmeyer’s class started with 150 salmon eggs a couple of weeks ago and are now at 141 eggs. Some eggs die as part of the normal process.

Fifth-grader Danyelle Daniels said she won’t be scared when releasing the salmon in May. She said that she tells everyone at home about what she’s learning at school about the salmon.

Hartmeyer said the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative introduced her to the Salmon in the Classroom program. This is Hartmeyer’s second year implementing the program into her curriculum. The program also helps Hartmeyer purchase the equipment she needs for her classroom.

Hartmeyer’s class went to the Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier in the school year. The trips were funded through the program.

Fifth-grader Clark Weir said that, at Besser and NOAA, they learned about different fish and all about how the watercycle helps the fish live.

Weir said he’s learned that Chinook salmon weren’t originally in the Great Lakes. He said it’s more interesting to see the salmon in person instead of reading from a book.

“I’ve learned that, if half of them are orange and are a little of milky-white, they’re still alive,” Weir said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.