By Shelby Stewart
After not being able to raise salmon last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peggy Miller-Zelinko’s class was excited to carry on the tradition this year.
“We couldn’t have the fish in the classroom because of spraying the desks daily, the spray would have killed the fish,” said Miller-Zelinko, 4th grade teacher at Harvey Swanson Elementary. “So we set it up in a small room that was a kitchen area with a pull-up window. All the kids could view the fish daily.”
One of the other big changes this year was that they kids could not feed them by hand because of hand sanitizer, but that didn’t stop the fish from growing.
“We had very good fish this year, some were four inches long. Those are monster fish at this time,” she said.
On March 29, Miller-Zelinko, her daughter, and fellow teacher Sharon Voyer released the fish into the Clinton River. Normally, this would be a field trip for the students, but due to the pandemic, they were not allowed this year.
“It was a little early because we had so many fish this year,” she said. “The aquarium was too small. We had about 120 fish.”
In addition to learning how to care for fish, Miller-Zelinko uses this as an opportunity to teach the students about being ambassadors for the DNR in regards to Great Lakes Conservation.
“They learn how hard it is to raise them from eggs to adults,” she said. “They learn about water quality, pH, chlorine, nitrates and especially nitrites, hardness of water and that they need to record these variables every day.’
The experiment is also a lesson in problem-solving.
“The kids learn how to record and write observations, measurements and how to solve a problem if one fish dies,” said Miller-Zelinko. “The kids are like detectives and it is cool to watch them. They also tell me how to solve a problem, like the water needs changing if the filter is dirty or the temperature just changed on the chiller.”
While they students weren’t able to attend the release, they will get another chance at raising fish.
“The DNR chose our school to receive a live Sea Lamprey in May,” she said. “So we will continue more lessons about ecology on the Great Lakes. Pretty exciting.”
By Shelby Stewart