By Jasmine Rockow

The Bulletin

About a dozen students chanted a goodbye poem to the steelhead fry they were about to release into the pond at Shevlin Park in Bend on Thursday.

“Goodbye, goodbye, we wish you goodbye. We will miss you steelhead fry!”

Tanya Everts, a kindergarten through fifth-grade online teacher for Bend-La Pine Schools, has spent the past month helping a group of home-schooled students raise steelhead trout until they were ready to be released into the wild.

The “eyed” fish eggs arrived from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on March 3 looking like fluorescent pink marbles. A week later the eggs hatched and became “alevins,” skinny fish with a hanging belly that’s called a yolk sac. Once the majority of the fish lost their yolk sacs and started surfacing in search of food, Everts knew it was time to release them into the wild, she said.

Fourth-grader Jet Valenzuela said, “I learned how fish grow. It’s cool to actually see them in the tank at each stage of life.”

Before their release, the fry lived in Everts’ classroom in The Education Center in downtown Bend. Students stopped by every week to check water temperature and test the water’s pH, and they drew pictures of the fish in different stages of growth.

At Shevlin Park on Thursday, Everts gathered the students around the pond’s edge. To get the fish acclimated to the pond’s water temperature, Everts placed the plastic bags of fish in the shallow water while she showed her students how to safely move the fry from their plastic bags into the ice-covered pond.

“Can you just scoop the fish out and put them into the pond?” Everts asked. Most kids shook their heads no.

She explained how the Fish and Wildlife Department gave her a special permit to release the fry into the pond, and stressed the importance of putting them in an environment where it’s natural for them to live.

After reciting the goodbye poem, each student received a plastic cup, which parents filled with water and fish. Some students successfully followed Everts’ example, gently dunking the cup into the pond to let the fish swim out. Other students simply poured their fish out several inches above the water’s surface.

“I learned that fishies, when a human touches them, they lose their life,” said first-grader Nikolina Owens. “Fishies like to swim around in a pond, but once they have been in one water temperature, they have to get used to another one.”

First-grader Tytan Neff said releasing the fish is his favorite part of the monthlong project.

“It’s been really great having (Everts) here,” said Tytan’s mother, Crystal Neff. “We’re not able to do these things at home. It breaks up the week and I’ve seen massive growth in my son since she started.”

Everts joined the district at the end of August. Her position is new to the district. She offers support with online classes to home-school families, hosts a reading and writing group twice weekly and organizes activities to get home-schooled kids together. In December, Everts led the students in a fish dissection, and Tuesday they will celebrate Earth Day by reading Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” The event is a partnership between Bend-La Pine Schools Online and the Deschutes Children’s Forest Environmental Education Program.

— Reporter: 541-383-0354,