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Release the salmon!

DNR program teaches students to care for nature’s creatures

North Oakview third-grader Jonah Damstra gets into big, big waders before going into the river

Dozens of schools across West Michigan are celebrating spring with annual salmon releases, as part of Salmon in the Classroom.

It’s a year-long Michigan Department of Natural Resources program that provides grants to schools that sign on to care for fertilized eggs until they can be released as young salmon — called fry — into local rivers.

The program teaches students about the life history of fish, natural resources conservation and the importance of the Great Lakes and fishing to Michigan culture. Taking care of them is a process that takes daily monitoring.

Below are two districts that recently bade farewell to the salmon they had raised from eggs.

Kendal Holman, left, and Ava Barr, North Oakview third-graders, helped release the salmon

East Grand Rapids

Wealthy Elementary third-grader Olive Starck said she didn’t name the salmon in teacher Thomas Morris’s class because “there were too many to keep track of.” And even though they were still just a few inches long when they were recently released, “they’ll get 10 times the size they are now, probably,” added classmate Georgia Jendritz.

Morris’s students and a shoal of parent volunteers gathered at Fish Ladder Park downtown for the release of 176 fry.


As he stood in front of a shiny Rogue River with blue skies overhead and green grass coming up for spring, high school science teacher Brian Hendricks said to his students: “If you just pause for a minute, you can feel Mother Nature here.”

Wealthy Elementary fifth-grader Zoe Sorota helped monitor this year’s salmon. Zoe was in the first group of Thomas Morris’ students to raise salmon. “These are a lot bigger than when I was in third grade,” she said

Third-graders from North Oakview Elementary came to watch the salmon the high schoolers raised to be released. A few lucky ones even got to put on waders, get in the water and help dump a bucket of salmon into the river.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this at Northview, and we hope to continue it,” Hendricks told those gathered for the event. “It’s just cool to see the kids get excited about it.”


All things salmon-y, liberation day

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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