" /> E-City aquaculture academy teaches kids sea-life lessons » Marco Eagle

E-City aquaculture academy teaches kids sea-life lessons

All students learn the three R's: reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.

If you're a high school student in Everglades City, you can add "raising redfish" to the list.

Junior Joshua Huggins is testing water quality in the classroom. Junior Ryan Collins and senior Tommy Owen are making a video about the outdoor lab for future students. And senior Journey Brown is transferring dozens of redfish from one tank to another.

These teenagers are among the six juniors and seniors in Everglades City School's Academy of Environmental Sciences and Aquaculture, and 12 underclassmen are waiting to join them in the career education program, said science teacher E. Louise Taylor.

An academy is a specific course of study, and many high schools have them in areas such as architecture or the culinary arts, Taylor said.

The academy at Everglades City, which instructs juniors and seniors who have an interest in aquaculture, is starting its third year.

Aquaculture is a way to learn more about stock enhancement and replacement, to complement commercial fishing, and to create possibilities for entrepreneurial ventures, Taylor said.

The academy was the brainchild of teachers Leslie Terry and Mitchell Roberts. Roberts, a secondary Exceptional Student Education teacher, wanted a project to teach his students about careers such as plumbing. Terry, a former science teacher, wanted a place for her students to learn about water quality, salinity and other factors that impact the environment outside their classroom.

From there, the unified effort helped to create an outdoor lab — which consists of a collection of tanks, hoses and monitors — where students raise donated redfish. The students work in the lab three times a week.

You can bring a bucket of water to the classroom to try and teach a student about water quality, Roberts said. "But if they have eight fish die the night before, then they really want to know what's wrong with the water."

Brown, 17, is the only female student in the group of six. The program has fueled her hopes of becoming a marine biologist.

"We're out in the field instead of in the classroom," she said as she emptied one 200-gallon tank and filled another. The new water, she explained, would have to sit for two days before she could put the fish in, or they would die.

These are the kinds of lessons better learned through experience, she said.

"I grew up around the water, but I never really knew anything about it," Brown said. Her father is an airboat captain, and many of her extended family members are fishermen.

"You can read things in a book, but you don't really have to care about it," she said.

"Here, in the lab, you have to."

Junior Pepe Chirino, 16, said the academy has made him more aware and protective of the fragile ecosystem his father and uncles, also fishermen, depend on.

"Without taking care of the water, there wouldn't be any fish," he said. "There would be no tourism or sportfishing or food for the restaurants.

"There would be nothing."

© 2004 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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