Birmingham Covington students take part in DNR fish release program

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 17, 2017

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AUBURN HILLS — Something fishy was going on with Birmingham Covington Elementary School third- and fourth-graders recently.

The students released more than 70 adolescent salmon into the Clinton River May 9, salmon they had begun raising from eggs in November.

It was part of a program the school had designed to educate students about conservation and animal life cycles.

“This is through a Michigan Department of Natural Resources program, so we have talked a lot about habitats, food webs, watersheds and conservation,” explained Covington teacher Kim Davis. “This gives the kids a case study to see these concepts themselves.”

Davis said the DNR’s goal was not to restock the rivers — the department is able to do that in sufficient numbers itself — but to educate young people and provide them with a stronger connection to animals and the environment.

The students raised the fish in a 55-gallon tank in one of the classrooms; 150 fish eggs were ordered, but only about half survived over the five-month growing period.

“We feed them once they’re old enough to eat,” said Davis. “The students have to clean the tank, replace the water and make sure the chemicals are balanced. I explain it to them like the fish have to eat in a port-a-potty, because they do everything in their tank. We also need to ensure it’s the same temperature as a Michigan river would be that time of year because that’s what they need to survive. We even arrange for them to be taken care of over breaks from class.”

They released the young fish into the Clinton River at Riverside Park in Auburn Hills. Two students would remove a fish from the cooler that the fish were transported in, place it in a cup, wade into the river and release it into nature.

“This is the third year we’ve done this,” said Davis. “There is a lot of daily care and maintenance, so it teaches them responsibility. We like that it covers so many things in the curriculum beyond just science-related topics. Also, we had a lot of parents take part as it went along, including today, so it’s a nice way to connect parents to what their kids are learning.”

Many of the students’ parents were on hand for the release. Some said they were impressed with the extent and the success of the project.

“They even had an app to track the eggs called Seesaw,” said parent Stephanie Schmidt. “It showed them how they grow, phase by phase. They could post pictures and updates. My son thought this was pretty cool. I don’t know any other school that does this. It’s so neat they learn about things like life cycles not just by reading it in a book, but by seeing it themselves.”

The students jumped into the project enthusiastically and said they learned a lot and greatly enjoyed the process.

“I think it was really, really fun,” said fourth-grader Anna Apsey. “It was a good opportunity, and it was so cool to release the salmon we’ve raised since November. We learned a lot about life cycles and ecosystems.”

The students became very emotionally involved in watching the fish grow up, and letting them go in the wild was a big step for them.

“One of my favorite salmon is missing its tail. It has a red spot instead,” said fourth-grader Aya Mierzwa. “It was so neat to watch them grow step by step from an egg to an alevin to a fry to a smolt. It was all really interesting.”

Third-grader Lindsay Kell was excited about this program and said she had been looking forward to it since she arrived at Covington.

“I’m new to the school this year, so when I was taking a tour of the school and they told me we would be helping raise salmon and putting them in the river, I freaked out. It was so cool.”

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