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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
(You can see our current year's progress here!)

This is a story about passion for science, the amazing capabilities of children, and a little help from our friends.

When I interviewed for a job as a science teacher at a middle school outside of Washington D.C., the principal asked me what 'elective' course I would like to teach if I could have my choice of anything. Being a planted tanker my answer was obvious.

After I got the job I started two classes called "Aquarium Science"; one for sixth graders and one for seventh. Between 15 and 20 young aquarists in each. My students last year were very patient. They spent almost half of the year learning applicable theory: biology, chemistry, art and design, environmental science, conservation biology, etc. We were the first members of a new charter school and our budget was limited. The principal had told me that he would try to get our classes whatever we needed. I convinced him that my students and I would be able to have a very successful class while only asking the school for materials if we absolutely had to.

In November we got our first break. The kids had collaborated on Google Docs to write grant proposals to local businesses. The owner of the best LFS in Maryland, House of Tropicals, told me that he would get in touch with his suppliers and donate ten 10 gallon Aqueon tanks and ten Aquaclear 20 filters. Those tanks still have the House of Tropicals stickers that I asked for on their fronts! The school chipped in twelve Aqueon Pro 50 heaters that I'd ordered and I brought my two spare 10 G tanks and Aquaclear 30 filters. We were all set.

We didn't have much room last year. Being a public charter school entitled us to some attention from the county for things students needed, but we still had to rent our school. 300 middle schoolers crammed into an old elementary school didn't leave us a whole lot of room for tanks. I elected to get industrial-style shelves on which to put the tanks. It wasn't ideal, but everyone loved it. As you can imagine, very few of my students had experience with fish keeping; even fewer with the miniature ecosystems that are planted aquaria.

We were helped out tremendously last year. Our local PetCo has a few employees that are EXPERT fish keepers. After I'd been a few times to shop for sundries I sparked a conversation with a manager and the head of the fish department. They offered to give us any plants that were unsellable: crypts that had melted, stems that were straggly, anubias with holes in the leaves, you get the idea. Plants that were perfectly good but just needed some TLC- the perfect opportunity to teach the students the patience required in our hobby! We got a BIG bag of plants every two to three weeks. Major kudos to these employees from a chain that sometimes gets a little stereotyped by planted tank people (I was one of them).

We also experienced a great deal of kindness from members of this very forum. @Falcoo, @Thenoob, @j03yYunG, @caique, @RWaters, @shrimpo, @TankFreak420, @Raith, @Squrl888, @MCHRKiller, @EChord, and @Oceangirl either RAOKed us or outright donated stuff to the class. We got everything: snails (including assassins), stems, swords and crypts, ferns and mosses. Thanks everybody. I tried to leave feedback for you all, but I still feel like I missed some. If I haven't mentioned you here, please PM me so I can give you the thanks you are due!

We subbed our tanks with Black Diamond because it's cheap and effective. We used Home Depot single T8 shop lights (~18 inches above the sub). We tested with API kits and fertilized with my stash of Green Leaf ferts (my tanks are all low-tech, so a little goes a long way).

After a lengthy cycling period (interrupted by the winter break), our kids started getting fish in January/February. Most of these were either cheap fish from PetCo (platys, glowlight tetras, etc.) or extras from home (emerald eyed rasboras, beckford's pencilfish, otos).

We ended the year happy. This year, of our 450 students (we add a grade level per year) fully 150 selected Aquarium Science as their first choice of elective. Not a bad way to grow the hobby!

The next time I have a couple hours off I will continue this with the actual thread I set out to create tonight. I'll give all the details of our new school building, my new classroom, and what we're doing now. I will introduce our setup and classroom procedures, but I will let my students speak for themselves. Goodnight everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thank you for your comment and THANK YOU for your donation of floaters!

I'll post a couple of pics of the OLD setup tomorrow. I'll follow that this weekend with teaser pics of my huge new classroom and all of the tanks set up in a much more attractive way!
 

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Thank you for your comment and THANK YOU for your donation of floaters!

I'll post a couple of pics of the OLD setup tomorrow. I'll follow that this weekend with teaser pics of my huge new classroom and all of the tanks set up in a much more attractive way!
Np, I wish I could have all those tanks at my place. :0
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Last year I started the policy of only giving students those materials and organisms they proved to be experts on. For instance, if they wanted hardscape materials then each group member had to turn in an original research report about the relative pros and cons of rocks, wood, and artificial hardscape in addition to a discussion of the proper way to safely add unknown rocks or wild driftwood to a tank.

Some groups were more diligent than others. Several had 7-10 different species of plants, a couple species of fish, various snails, and some nice hardscape items. Others had less. Even by the end of the year we still hadn't filled our tanks to meet anyone's definition of 'heavily planted.'

I don't know what happened to all my pictures. Here are a few from early in the spring semester last year. Just cell phone pics. Please ignore the rats' nest of wiring behind the tanks...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
So now for this year!

We moved to a new school in August. Our parent foundation bought and renovated an old MASSIVE mattress warehouse (I know, right?). My new classroom is HUGE compared to last year. I planned to put tables along the left wall and the back wall to put tanks. We had a bunch of 6 foot tables in storage; each can hold 2-3 10 gallon tanks depending on how close you cram them in. I appropriated seven of them. The best part is that there's a sink on the left wall and a drain right under the safety shower. How many science lab drains are used primarily for aquarium water? I wonder...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
One of my first assignments was for the students to create a document with everything they currently knew about keeping fish. One young lady was having trouble with her computer, so she wrote in her composition book instead. She had dedicated one of her composition books to our class! I immediately knew that she would do quite well in this class....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If all classes where like this i would have done much better in school =)
Thank you! I'm sure you did fine. ;)

We try to make all of our classes hands-on and inquiry-based nowadays! Our school in particular is very heavy into technology, inquiry, and student-driven lessons. All of our students have access to a laptop in every classroom. Most of their assignments are done online.

My class is *called* "Aquarium Science", but a lot of the work the students do is part of a crash course on how to do efficient online research using good search queries and utilizing multiple reputable sources. My kids quickly learn that copying and pasting from the first source they find just isn't good enough. The skills of corroboration and verification will hopefully stick with them.
 

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I am very impressed, and JEALOUS that would have been so fun. Great Job!!! and Keep it up!!
 

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This is OUTSTANDING!

I am always thrilled to see threads like this! A good friend of mine from another site, his mother is a teacher and did something similar. At the time I was in the Marine world of the hobby and I was able to provide tons of coral frags to her class for their project.

I wish more teachers would do things like this!

Great job! My hat is off to you for your efforts in leading and teaching a new generation to love this hobby!
 

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Why cant i go there? I would jump on this course in a heartbeat if my school offered it!
 

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What a positive and refreshing thread compared to the bickering in CSM+B Toxicity!!!
Congratulations, well done and wish you all the success!!
 

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This is so great! I wish my school had this!

If you or your students ever need anything, DM me and I can try to do what I can to help (although in truth I don't have an excess of plants right now).
 

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This is awesome. Teaching a class like this is every hobbyists dream. Congratulations on building the future of the hobby.
 

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Methods class

I am in methods class. We learn how to test the nirate and nirite. Its a pleasure being in the new classroom. Our school needs donations for plants and fish. Most schools don't have this kind of aquarium class.
:smile2::eek::biggrin::icon_lol:
 
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