WINDSOR – Students at St. Gabriel School have a vested interest in the lives of a number of salmon that are swimming in local rivers on their way to Long Island Sound.
The middle school students adopted salmon eggs in December and learned about the fish’s life cycle over the weeks until they released the young fish in March into Salmon Brook, at Granby’s Salmon Brook Park.
It was the 13th year that St. Gabriel's participated in the Connecticut River Salmon Assocation's (CRSA) Salmon-in-Schools program, assisting in the CRSA's efforts to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River watershed.
"It’s actually very interesting and the kids love it," said science teacher Meg Rosa. She is concerned that state budget cuts might threaten the school’s participation next year, though.
"The entire project has not only been an amazing science lesson, but also a hands-on learning experience of environmental awareness and sustainability," said Ms. Rosa.
CRSA delivered 200 Atlantic salmon eggs in mid-December to St. Gabriel’s. They were housed in Ms. Rosa’s classroom, where students in grades six through eight tracked and documented the salmons’ growth from the "eyed" egg stage to the "alevin" stage, to the "fry" stage. The students also learned about the salmons’ environments.
In March, the children released close to 150 fish eggs into the brook. Ms. Rosa said it would have been more but the school had problems with the tank.
Ms. Rosa said that after being released, the Atlantic salmon spend the next two years between Salmon Brook Park’s stream and the Farmington and Connecticut Rivers, where they grow until they reach the stage at which they change from freshwater fish to saltwater fish. They then head out to Long Island and the Atlantic Ocean, and eventually return to the stream to lay eggs.
The school’s involvement in the salmon project is a win-win, Ms. Rosa said.
"This project is something students look forward to starting in at least grade four," she said. "It would be such a shame to see this program end, not only for students, but for the environment."
The eggs the school receives come from the Kensington Hatchery, which distributes them to more than 60 schools in the state. The CRSA has let its participating schools know that the hatchery’s operating budget of almost $148,000 is not scheduled for funding in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget. Without the funding, the CRSA Web site says, the Salmon-in-Schools program would end.
The students "are very disappointed already," Ms. Rosa said. "It’s almost like a rite of passage for our kids."