It’s amazing to think that the biggest hit of MACNA 2011 may have not occurred at any talks, nor existed at any vendor booth, but instead was the drool worthy Marine Sciences Department at Central Campus of Des Moines Public Schools. If you didn’t take one of the many tours, you truly missed out. Dr. Karen Stiles and Kirk Embree have us all wanting to drop what we’re doing, move to Iowa, and re-enroll as high school students without delay. I want to do a book report on head and lateral line erosion (HLLE). Maybe my Harlequin Filefish article from 2009 could be turned in as a semester’s research?
All due respect to colleges and universities, it’s been 15-plus years since I was traveling around the country looking at Marine Biology programs at the university level — I never expected what I saw back then to be dwarfed, if not in fact trivialized, by what students get to experience today at Central Campus. Higher Learning, take note — you’ve just been put on notice by a high school facility. The bar is being raised again.
It goes without saying that what Dr. Stiles and Mr. Embree have pulled together to offer at a public school is an amazing feat. Even more amazing still is that this facility is student-run. Not just basic husbandry, but even fish breeding, coral farming, the type of stuff many hobbyists don’t even do.
However, as with any special public project, it cannot be made possible without ongoing public and commercial support. For an industry that too often seems to be whining about Nintendos and Gameboys (yes, dating myself) distracting our children, here’s your golden opportunity to get kids back in touch with our hobby while developing a deeper appreciation and valuation of our oceans as a whole. Learn from what we see being achieved here. Our futures, in many respects, may depend on it.