Alcona students make a splash releasing salmon in the Harrisville Harbor

Students at Alcona Elementary School wrap up a yearlong project with a trip to the Harrisville Harbor to release their classroom-reared salmon and explore local resources.

Sixth graders releasing their salmon fingerlings into the river at Harrisville Harbor. Photo by Les Thomas.
Sixth graders releasing their salmon fingerlings into the river at Harrisville Harbor. Photo by Les Thomas.

Alcona Elementary School students ventured out to Harrisville Harbor May 9, 2017, as part of a day-long exploration of water science and ecosystem studies. At the center of this trip, sixth graders released the young Chinook salmon they had been raising in the elementary school as part of the educational Salmon in the Classroom Program, a program sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Students measured and weighed each fish before the release to calculate the health of their fish. They also conducted an assessment of fish habitat and quality of the water in the harbor. They monitored water quality by conducting chemical tests and sampling biological, living macroinvertebrate water life as a measure of water quality. They also sampled for fish along the shoreline as a study of ecosystem biodiversity and contributed as citizen scientists, entering their fisheries data online with iNaturalist, a biodiversity monitoring website sponsored by Michigan Geographic Alliance.

Finally, these sixth-grade students served as mentors to younger kindergarten students who also joined in celebrating water science studies on this day. The kindergarteners explored aquatic ecosystem life, enjoyed educational games on this sunny day and, led by sixth graders, also contributed to their own stewardship project by collecting litter to help address marine debris pollution at the harbor and along the shoreline.

Identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates

Student using a dichotomus key to identify aquatic macroinvertebrates. Photo by Les Thomas.

Students used the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach protocols and datasheets for their litter cleanup. At the end of the day, students had picked up 105.2 pounds of trash (the tire found by the students weighed a lot!) and applied math by completing tallies of all the different trash items found. Students took great pride in the litter they removed and releasing the salmon they raised in the classroom while contributing to water conservation through their studies at the Harrisville Harbor.

The school partnered as part of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative to incorporate water conservation stewardship studies. The lead teacher, Jennifer Ingles, who is also the elementary school’s STEM teacher, is passionate about using place-based education to make science more real and provides her students with an opportunity to learn about and give back to their community while meeting Michigan’s educational standards.

Measuring and weighing salmon

Students and STEM teacher measuring and weighing salmon fingerlings. Photo by Les Thomas.

Community partners helping to organize and support students in this field study were Michigan State University Extension, Michigan 4-H Youth Development Programs, Michigan Sea Grant, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Huron Pines AmeriCorps and a local Lake Huron Sportfishing group.

Student looking at salmon in tub

Student takes a closer look at an Emerald Shiner. Photo by Brandon Schroeder.

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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