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Old 01/07/2015, 11:22 AM   #1
brandoniscool
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updates from my school's coral reef project

Hello Reef Central,

Thought I'd update you all on the coral reef project that I run Stratton Elementary School. I moved to Stratton this school year from Garden Hills Elementary because the principal and staff at Stratton wanted to take my project school wide. Stratton is also a Title One school in the same district but focuses on project based learning.

As part of my new school's micro society magnet curriculum, I can devote 50 minutes a day and hours after school to training kids from every grade level on aquarium keeping. There are also frequent days during the year where kids from every class can float around the school and check out projects (and tanks) in other classrooms.

Since this summer I have been busy building a 90, 120 and 300 gallon reef system and setup six other 30-50 gallon marine and freshwater aquariums in classrooms and common ares around the school.

My students haven't been posting reef central because I've had to focus on training them on maintenance first. I'm overwhelmed with keeping all of our critters happy and healthy but now over 10 students (reef bosses) can complete all basic chemical testing, water changes, feeding and monitoring and diagnosis of problems with coral and fish. They are in return starting to teach more kids. My overall goal for the project is to retire to a supervisory role and have the kids do 95% of all of the tank care, thought I still spend about 1-3 hours a day doing tank chores.

I believe that the project has a significant impact on the academic, social and emotional growth of the students. Here is a recent news article from local paper and a television blurb that helps to communicate what I'm doing

I will post a ton of pictures that I've taken this year. If any of you are interested in learning more or talking with my kids don't hesitate to email or PM me.

Thanks again to all fellow reefers out there for your help.

Brandon


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:27 AM   #2
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Here are the kiddos from my homeroom class standing outside of display tank down stairs by the office.



Here's a better picture of the display tank with the lights off.




I want to proudly introduce my student Aislin. Aislin is one of the most senior reef bosses and stays after school. Aislin is also in charge of tanks fresh water tanks in her room and the special ed/life skills room.


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:29 AM   #3
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So awesome. Keep it up man!


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:33 AM   #4
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Wow, that is pretty awesome! It is great that the school allows the budget for these projects as it seems harder and harder to keep kids engaged at school. Please keep us informed on how the project is going.

Matt


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:33 AM   #5
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All of the rooms at Stratton have these cool partitions that can be removed to conjoin rooms. This 90 gallon tank is in the third grade room next to mine. It is my favorite tank of the project and has the best coral growth. LiveRock donated all of the sand and rock and we still have most of the inverts he sent. One rock crab is as big as both of my hands.



This is Savanna, she's fifth grader and the other lead reef boss. She is very mature and manages all of the other students without being two bossy. She is an expert at water testing and water changes. She is one of the only kids strong enough to pick up and dump 5 gallon buckets in the sink making her a key asset to our project. (she's also very smart)


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:35 AM   #6
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Savanna is gregarious and skilled at explaining reefing to other students. She can field silly questions a lot better than I can. In this picture she's showing some coral and inverts to first and second graders during Stratton's 'Market Days' where kids visit other classrooms.


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:39 AM   #7
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For some reason the 90 gallon tank is the one everyone comes to first. Here is a group of home school student who visited our school on a field trip. Usually kids show visitors around but they came after school and I got the opportunity to work with them.



This picture has Leon showing the 90 gallon tank to a visiting parent. Leon has the 90 gallon tank in his classroom and is in charge of cleaning and maintenance of the tank.


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:43 AM   #8
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Lou from Tropic Marin is a friend to our project and an all around super nice dude. He routinely skypes with our class. I welcome any interested person on RC to arrange a Skype appointment with my class, we love to talk reefing and the kiddos from my school instantly impart 'rock star' status to anyone that shows up on the big screen and talks them.


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Old 01/07/2015, 11:50 AM   #9
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This is the largest tank of the project. It's in my room and I pieced it together from craigslist parts and some generous donations from Reeflo, Tunze, Kessil, CAD lights and more. It has a 180 gallon display plumbed to a 120 gallon tank in the back as a sump and fragout tank. I moved more fish and coral into the tank recently but don't have pictures. I'll try to post some more soon.

I wanted to also introduce Elyes (in glasses). Elyes is another reef boss who specializes in water chemistry. In this picture they're making collages to give to donors.



This is Florence. She's one of the two students in charge of our rotifer culture. Here she's holding some kind of filter feeding crab that arrived in the awesome rock that was donated by LiveRock (an RC member).



Here's another pic of kids from my homeroom class looking at new additions to the tank.


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Old 01/07/2015, 12:08 PM   #10
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Awesome Donations

I want to thank all of the past and present donors to our project. About 50% of the funding of the project comes from my personal finances and parent donations. The other 50% comes from the reefing community, especially Reef Central. We literally couldn't keep our project running without your help, thanks



Michael from Aqua Craft and Lou from Tropic Marine generously donated thousands of dollars and several tons of salt to our project. Both literally had semi's back up to our school. Kids from the project and the after school program helped unload.



This is Monty Rose and his daughter Evie. Monty is also a third grade teacher and has the 90 tank in his classroom.



Thanks to Aqua Craft and Tropic Marin we now have enough salt to last unto next year. This helps us afford to expand and build more tanks. Thanks Michael and Lou


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Old 01/07/2015, 12:16 PM   #11
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Aquatic Experience Convention

About 7 students from Stratton and their families made the drive up the Aquatic Experiences convention in Chicago. We got to personally meet some of our friends and present them with posters from our project.



Here's Florence and her extended family.



Lou from Tropic Marin is the one of the nicest people in the world and very easy to talk to.




Michael from Aqua Craft is also an awesome dude. He's very personable with my kids who refer to him as the 'mustache aquarium man'


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Old 01/07/2015, 12:21 PM   #12
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Everything is looking really great!!! If I had these in my classrooms when I was in school i'd never want to leave.

Maybe the filter feeding crab is some kind of porcelain crab


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Old 01/07/2015, 12:44 PM   #13
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Coolest teacher award goes to this guy! Awesome job, keep it up!


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReeferKimberly View Post

Maybe the filter feeding crab is some kind of porcelain crab
Looks like one to me too. Brave girl! No way I'd pick up mine

This is such an awesome project and what a great teaching tool. As we have all experienced you have to know a little about everything to run a saltwater tank


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:09 PM   #15
brandoniscool
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joshky View Post
Coolest teacher award goes to this guy! Awesome job, keep it up!
Thanks for your interest and kind words. I do work very hard but I think that the praise should go towards the kids and the members of the reefing community. It's the passion and drive I see in the kids every day and the help of fellow reefers that keeps the project going.


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newsmyrna80 View Post
Looks like one to me too. Brave girl! No way I'd pick up mine

This is such an awesome project and what a great teaching tool. As we have all experienced you have to know a little about everything to run a saltwater tank
Yup

porcelain crab that sure did grow up, and the yellow tree sponge and gorgonians are looking real good Brandon, you are doing a great job keep all that alive as was it not in April that I sent you the rock and critters?
Nice group of kids...one thing in common from last years class....the huge smiles you have provided them with!

Keep it up!

Richard TBS
www.tbsaltwater.com


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:14 PM   #17
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more pictures from the Aquatic Experience Conference



My kids also got to meet Julian Sprung. He talked with use about fish health and is a bastion of wisdom about aquarium keeping.



Larry from LRS Reef Frenzy is also a donor and friend to our project. His super food has helped several stressed or sick fish get better in our QT tanks without medication.


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:21 PM   #18
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our table

We have been working with Gresham and Eric Henry from Reed Mariculture to set up a rotifer culture and write curriculum that teaches kids lab skills. They generously let us use their table space and my kiddos talked to people at the convention about our project. This totally meets Common Core Standards for listening and speaking.






Here's Florence passing out our business cards.






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Old 01/07/2015, 01:39 PM   #19
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Our work with the Bechman Institute at the U of I

My classroom has been working with a research lab at the University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign. It is run by Dr. Justin Rhodes, a research physiologist and biologist who studies the genetic and neurological basis of behavior. His lab is breeding clownfish and studies the physiological and behavioral changes that occur when they switch genders. His son Avi attends Stratton and works on the project. Dr. Rhodes gave us a bunch of juvenile clownfish for our 180 gallon tank and we are observing how they are pairing off and establishing territory.

We took a field trip last month to his lab at the Bechman Institute.





In these pictures a grad student Ross (also a Reef Central member) is showing some students some clown fish larva. Behind him are the breeding tanks.



Kids are feeding rotifers to juvenile clownfish (sorry for the rotated picture, i can't edit it from my phone)



Dr. Rhodes is showing some students a display tank outside of his lab.


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:44 PM   #20
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more Beckman photos



In this photo Dr. Jonthan Mun shows some students slides of clownfish gonads. He studies the physiological changes that occur in the gonads as male clownfish change genders.





Kids from my class played around with starfish and watched them feed. Dr. Rhodes explained star fish physiology and how their tube feet work. Later I'll try to remember to post some reports my students wrote on starfish.



Here's another picture of Dr. Rhode's lab.


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Last edited by brandoniscool; 01/07/2015 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 01/07/2015, 01:53 PM   #21
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i am SO SO glad to see you updating, brandon! you are giving these kids something they will remember forever. kudos to you for your hard work and to the kids for their interest in the project!

one of these days, i'm gonna take a road trip to see your tanks.


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Old 01/07/2015, 01:56 PM   #22
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This is so very incredibly cool - hats off to you good sir, hats off


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Old 01/07/2015, 02:01 PM   #23
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Your work is absolutely spectacular! Great job we sure need more teachers like yourself! You should consider entering the tank of the month contest on Reef Central!


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Old 01/07/2015, 02:03 PM   #24
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Welcome back Brandon and students! It's wonderful to see the kids so hands-on and excited!


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Old 01/07/2015, 02:10 PM   #25
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this is SO awesome. Its cool to see that you are teaching kids about reef tanks and other forms of fish care at such an early age... i really think it will pay off in more ways than just tank care (teaches them responsibility about other aspects in life).

I wish we had a program like this when i was in school... all we ever had were guinea pigs and lizards haha


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