Save The Bay Educators Lead Central Falls Students in Aquarium-Building Program
By Jeff Swanlund, education specialist
Every Friday, myself and fellow Save The Bay educator Meghan Kelly meet with middle schoolers from The Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls. The program is part of a Community Responsibility block of the school day, during which different educators from around the state work with a cohort of middle schoolers to help integrate the community into the school curriculum.
Since September, we’ve worked with students to design, plan, build and maintain a saltwater aquarium in their classroom. Students have developed problem-solving skills as they engineer their own aquaria, and have established a sense of responsibility as they maintain and care for the live mummichog fish that inhabit the tank.
Meeting weekly has allowed us to build meaningful connections with our students. The program has given each student a hands-on approach to animal husbandry and evoked a passion for caring for the fish. Many of the kids have never had a pet of their own, making this project extra exciting for them!
Students have shown enthusiasm as they’ve learned how to maintain proper water chemistry, which is essential for keeping a happy, healthy underwater environment. Every week, the group runs a water change, where they use a siphon to remove a third of the water and replace it with new saltwater mixed in the classroom. They are also responsible for continually checking the water chemistry, testing temperature, salinity, nitrogen and ammonia levels.
When the aquarium-building program concludes in January, Meghan and I will leave the school group with all of the supplies and knowledge they need to run their own tank. We hope that the school will find a home for the fish tank where all the students will have the opportunity to observe it as their own!
For the second half of the school year, we will return to The Learning Community Charter School to run a Community Responsibility block focused on boat building. Over a 16-week span we will lead a new cohort of middle schoolers in planning, designing and engineering their own cardboard boats.
See photos from the program below: