Thursday, February 22, 2018
 
Florida Sea Grant Helps School Raise Grades with Aquaculture Curriculum
/ Categories: Feature, Education

Florida Sea Grant Helps School Raise Grades with Aquaculture Curriculum

by Dorothy Zimmerman, Communications Director, Florida Sea Grant

Students use math and chemistry principles learned in the classroom to calculate salinity levels and analyze water quality in grow-out tanks.

Students use math and chemistry principles learned in the classroom to calculate salinity levels and analyze water quality in grow-out tanks.

Credit: Courtesy of Florida Sea Grant

You can now count middle and high school students among the growing list of Floridians learning about aquaculture, a relatively new industry that already generates more than $70 million in farm-gate income annually (the price of the product when it leaves the farm.)

Carlos Martinez, an aquaculture extension specialist with the University of Florida and a Florida Sea Grant affiliate, has helped more than a dozen middle and high schools across Florida implement aquaculture programs.

He and a larger team of University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension professionals have recently written the “Teach Aquaculture” curriculum for middle and high schools that conforms to Florida’s educational standards. The curriculum is available online without charge and has already been downloaded more than 500 times.

“In the short term, Teach Aquaculture stimulates a student’s interest in learning,” said Martinez. “In the long term, it gives a whole new generation the chance to think about aquaculture and marine science as a career.”

Students observe fish in their classroom.

Students observe fish in their classroom.

Credit: Florida Sea Grant

Crystal Lake Middle School is one of the growing number of Florida schools implementing the Teach Aquaculture curriculum to provide students with practical applications that reinforce concepts in math, science and even the social sciences.

Aquaculture instructor Dan Conner said the curriculum is a great resource.

“It provides a wide variety of lessons that cover the major sectors of aquaculture found here in Florida,” said Conner. “And it helps reinforce concepts students are already learning in their core classes through the lens of aquaculture.”

In a remarkable 900-square-foot greenhouse on the Crystal Lake’s Lakeland campus, students are trying their hand at raising tilapia and redfish, using the same methods and facilities found in private farms across the state.

Crystal Lake principal Chris Canning believes applying aquaculture education into his school’s curriculum has improved Crystal Lake’s reputation and stimulated its academic success, bringing about a positive change in the community for both students and teachers alike.

Crystal Lake students and faculty.

Crystal Lake students and faculty.

Crytstal Lake Middle School teacher Dan Connor (blue), student Luke Tefoe, student Clay Canning (red), Carlos Martinez, Principal Chris Canning. Credit: Florida Sea Grant

In fact, in 2010, the school’s state letter grade went up one full letter, from a C to a B, based on students’ improved scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in reading, writing, math and science.

“That’s the first time we’ve broken that barrier,” Canning says. “We have an attractor now. It’s an aquaculture facility that led to an academy setting, where kids that normally wouldn’t come near this place are involved in this school. Parents are involved in this school. And there aren’t two days that go by that a group doesn’t want to come see what we’re doing. This program has put our school on the map.”

Canning has used the aquaculture facility as the centerpiece for the school’s revitalization efforts. Included is the creation of the Crystal Academy of Science and Engineering, a magnet program for middle school students in Polk County working to follow a science or engineering academic path through high school.

“The aquaculture program has influenced me by showing me what it is like to be a researcher in the real world,” said Mackenzie Barber, a sixth grader in the magnet program. “I love aquaculture!”

And another has joined the count!

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