Forget cute and cuddly, the third-grade students in one Lindbergh Elementary classroom had some slippery classroom critters this year.

Laura Polidori’s third class raised Chinook salmon over the course of the school year and released them this spring at Ford Field Park in Dearborn. The Salmon in the Classroom project is sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which provides the fish eggs, teaching lessons, state permits, and other logistics.

The Lindbergh Elementary PTA and Pet Smart helped out with items like the fish tank and supplies for the fish.  Students released 98 salmon this year, Miss Polidori’s second year with salmon.

“We received the fish as eggs, and students learned how they came to our Great Lakes and what animals were predators to them and the life cycle, as they do not all survive,” Miss Polidori said.

Students enjoyed feeding the fish and watching them grow.  Along the way, the children also learned about environmental factors like water quality and practiced some responsibility in helping care for the young salmon. The aquarium had to be cleaned at least once a week and water quality and temperature regularly monitored.

About 300 classrooms across the state participate in Salmon in the Classroom, raising salmon from eggs to smolt before releasing them in the spring at just a few inches long.

DNR notes that, “Caring for young salmon encourages students to think and care about conservation and creates a connection between caring for their fish and caring for their local environment.”

Ms. Polidori plans to have more salmon next year.

“I think it is a great opportunity and experience for students,” she said.