September 14, 2014

Salmon project wades through rough patches

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By John Fischer|Staff writer
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STANDISH — Standish-Sterling Middle School (SSMS) students in Diane Potts and Jill Bartlett’s fifth grade science classes have been working on a “Salmon in the classroom” project for the past few months in an effort to not only educate the students in a non-traditional manner but to help spur growth in the fish population in Arenac County.

Bartlett says some problems have arisen since the arrival of the salmon, though.

“First off, we lost 199 eggs during the hatching process,” Bartlett said. “We didn’t have our big aquarium in yet and so we were keeping the fish in smaller tanks.

“Then, through various things, we lost all but 25 of the salmon.”

She added one difficulty the program had was in its dealings with early mortality syndrome (EMS), a hereditary disease which requires the salmon receive healthy doses of vitamin B-12. If the fish don’t get it, they will swim in circles for a while before dying.

“We (class) had trouble even finding out it was EMS killing the fish,” Bartlett said. “We were changing filters and started changing 20-percent of the water each day. We also took the gravel out of the tanks to make sure there was no bacteria buildup.

“I found out it isn’t that uncommon to lose a lot of the salmon during your first year. There was one teacher I know who lost all but one of their salmon. In a way, it has actually helped the students learn about the scientific process through a lot of trial and error. They’re (students) coming up with more in-depth questions each day. They’re getting a good feel for science.”

According to Bartlett, throughout the course, students volunteer each day to carry out the necessary daily tasks.

“They feed the fish several times a day, change 20-percent of the water, take care of mortalities and now we’re cleaning and drying the gravel for next year,” Bartlett said.

She also says some of the focus has been shifted from bringing in presenters to speak to the class because of the difficulties, but says two speakers, Dick Dell of the Sterling Sportsmen Association and a representative from the Coast Guard, are scheduled for later in the year.

Bartlett says all cost for “Salmon in the classroom” have been covered for this year but next year she would like for her class go on a few field trips to do water testing, which will require additional funding.

She also says the community’s help has really helped kick off the first year of the program.

“The community has been very supportive,” Bartlett said. “Dr. Ronald Schwab helped us with the B-12 supplement. Chris Morris has been very helpful with the equipment and our superintendent, Michael Dodge, has a vast knowledge in the area from when he used to work in a pet store and he’s helped us quite a bit.”

She added the students in her and Potts’ classes are planning to release the salmon, which are about two inches long, in May.

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