Every day is Earth Day in my science classroom. We have saltwater aquarium systems and in addition to regular science classes, I teach an Aquatic Studies elective. Students will care for a reef aquarium, coral propagation tank, jellyfish tank, clownfish and anemones, frogs, and culture plankton for live food. Middle school is the perfect time to involve students in environmental science!
As a magnet school, we serve students throughout the district, encompassing a wide range of home language, academic proficiency, and socioeconomic level.
We are also a full-inclusion school, so I teach all students including those with special needs, the gifted and English Language Learners. I teach a rigorous STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum constructed on a foundation of hands-on learning and real-world application. Aquarium study and care provide excellent applications of science concepts and art, technology, and financial literacy, bringing relevant college and career prep experiences to my students.
A reef aquarium offers a glimpse into Earth's most diverse ecosystem, which exists in a delicate balance of chemical and biological factors.
To maintain healthy and stable habitats for all of our marine creatures, my new Aquatic Studies students will soon learn how to mix synthetic seawater, measure the alkalinity, and keep algae in check.
They will purify tap water, calculate and measure the correct amount of salt mix, mix it, check the salinity, and make adjustments. They will perform various water quality tests including determining the alkalinity, which indicates the water's resistance to pH swings and its suitability for coral growth. We have the testing equipment but need a refill of the chemical reagent. Students will replace the worn scrubber pads on our algae magnets so they can frequently clean the glass walls of the aquariums. In doing so, they will learn to observe fluctuations in nutrient levels, behaviors of tank inhabitants, and changes in the appearance and growth of our corals.
A reef aquarium is an excellent avenue by which students can discover their own roles in environmental science and stewardship. They will quickly learn it is our responsibility to maintain a suitable environment for the organisms in our care, and that our classroom tanks provide a small model of our Earth.
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