When I think back to my high school days, I remember a 29-gallon freshwater aquarium in science class. Coincidentally, I donated most of the specimens in that tank to my teacher from my home aquariums. It served as more of a stereotypical science classroom fixture than a teaching tool. So I guess you could say the hands-on aquatic learning experience was rather limited.
The same certainly can’t be said of the Marine Science Lab at Bellevue High School in landlocked Ohio, USA. David Bowers’ classroom lab is an oceanic oasis amongst the fields of the Midwest (see the video below). Every time I visit Dave and his classroom, I’m struck by what a surprise it is to have thousands of gallons of salty learning opportunities at this small, rural school. Though Dave is too modest to admit it, the students at Bellevue are incredibly lucky to have a robust laboratory to learn in and a dedicated aquarist and educator to teach them.
My goal is not to create marine biologists, my goal is to create scientists and good citizen scientists, so they understand the basic concepts of science, the value of the oceans, and the fragility of the oceans. – David Bowers
A 412-gallon mixed-reef aquarium anchors the entryway to the lab with a 420-gallon acrylic shark lagoon balancing out the other side of the room. Throughout the rest of the lab, you’ll find an ever-changing array of utilitarian setups purposed for various students’ studies and research projects. Part of the fun of visiting the lab is you never know what to expect. Dave gives his students freedom to explore and learn about specific aspects of ocean life that interest them, so it’s always neat to see what’s in progress.
To that end, funding these projects and keeping the lab up and running is a constant struggle. Unfortunately, the main fundraiser that almost completely funded the classroom in the past was eliminated in recent years due to changes in state regulations. Since then, Dave and his students have employed a smorgasbord of smaller fundraisers. However, the kindness of the saltwater aquarium community has also played a big role. Recognizing the great work Dave and his students are doing, industry companies, local fish stores and businesses, and fellow hobbyists have all stepped up to the plate with equipment, supplies, and livestock donations.
Be sure to “Like” the Bellevue High School Marine Science Club on Facebook to follow along with their projects. If you’re interested in making a donation to the lab, message Dave through their Facebook page.