Cyber students gather in real world to shop for a hypothetical aquarium

By Mark Guydish - mguydish@timesleader.com | October 29th, 2015 12:38 pm

PITTSTON —And if you look into this aquarium you’ll see exotic fish reminiscent of the colorful breeds in “Finding Nemo,” including that large, bug-eyed, blue squid apparently trying to eat a youngster’s head.

Wait, that can’t be right —

“I wear it sometimes,” Commonwealth Connections Academy student Jenson Huey said of the squid-shaped cap that he sported while looking at aquarium supplies at Pet Zone Monday, “but especially today!”

And peering through the aquarium at him wearing that cap on his head could arguably make one wonder for a moment whether he was on the inside or the outside of the tank.

Huey, 12, was one of 30 students from the cyber school to participate in a field trip heavy on marine life science at the Pittston store. While the students generally study online at home, the academy offers about 500 educational field trips statewide each year, according to Kurt Amen, the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) conservatory manager.

Students started the trip by conducting a string of lessons in the academy’s mobile lab, then headed into the store, which Amen praised as “wonderful” in willingness to help with such ideas.

They broke into three groups, one clustered near a wall of small tanks sporting different sea life so they could learn to identify the diverse species, another sitting at a table to learn how to test salinity in water, and the third launching a bit of a scavenger hunt through the store to price all the items needed to set up their own hypothetical aquarium.

Huey, sporting the squid cap from start to finish, suggested a 10-gallon tank “so it would be easy to walk around,” but Amen offered a caution.

“If one thing goes wrong in a 10-gallon tank, everything dies,” he warned.

“But we’re smart!” Huey countered.

“If you’re smart,” Amen suggested, “you’re going to pick a bigger tank.”

They settled on a 75-gallon tank, $595 with the stand. Then Amen told them to look for a lighting system, but thanks to Huey, of Butler Township, that was a snap. He turned around and pointed out they were on the other side of the same aisle.

The search went on: Protein skimmer, aquarium filter, substrate (they opted for “live sand” loaded with organisms that help clean up waste from the fish), a hydrometer and several other must haves. Total price: $1,721.

Huey said the trip was “great,” but when asked if his parents would buy him a $2,000 aquarium with fish he laughed. “Probably not.”

Kayla Whitney, 17, said she had attended private and public school until eighth grade before trying the cyber school, which proved mostly free of problems with other students — except when her current classmate, a sister, “has a bad day.”

And while she also laughed at the thought of asking for a big aquarium (“I have one fish, in a little tank,” she said), this trip was right up her alley. “I want to be a marine biologist or work in animal behavior.”

Maybe she should get a squid cap.

Kurt Amen, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Conservatory Manager at Commonwealth Connections Academy, talks with students on what supplies they will need to set up a salt water fish tank so the student can calculate the cost.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/web1_TTL102715petzone2.jpgKurt Amen, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Conservatory Manager at Commonwealth Connections Academy, talks with students on what supplies they will need to set up a salt water fish tank so the student can calculate the cost. Clark Van Orden | Sunday Dispatch

By Mark Guydish

mguydish@timesleader.com

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish.


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