Estuaries Program at Middle School

Estuaries Program at Middle School

Tuesday evening I got a message from Chuck Mulligan the Marine Science and Chemistry teacher at the Academy of Environmental Science, which is our only “public charter school” in Citrus County telling me that a group of his students from the Academy would be at Citrus Springs Middle School in the 7th grade science classrooms presenting lessons on Estuaries, and how they affect our waters.  Last year I had the opportunity of spending the day with his Student-Teachers as they escorted middle schoolers on boats around Crystal River Bay so I was excited to see the students in the classroom.  The class began with a multimedia presentation given by two AES Student-Teachers.  The Student-Teachers talked about the local environment and explained how “we” each play a part in contributing positively or negatively to our environment and local clean water.  Throughout the presentation the Student-Teachers would interact with the CSM students by asking questions relative to the lesson being taught, and providing information that was pertinent to the topics being discussed.  These Student-Teachers clearly were not reciting a memorized lesson. They clearly understood and were well versed on what they were teaching, which is a credit to their own learning environment at AES.  The Student-Teachers showed examples of Plankton and shared how the plankton has a positive effect on the estuaries.  They also showed pictures of some plankton and shared both their scientific names as well as the “nick” names the AES students give them.

After the presentation, the CSM students were given an opportunity to look through very high powered microscopes to view and identify plankton first hand.  Some of these microscopes have a value of over $10,000 dollars and were purchased using special grant monies obtained by AES with the assistance of Mr. Chuck Mulligan.

Student-Teachers also taught CSM students how plankton shape their bodies to float near the surface of the water nearest the sun to help feed themselves and how their shape can help provide some protection. Then CSM students were given an opportunity to form their own plankton, using a 2oz. size clay ball, to see what form would float the longest before sinking to the bottom.  While visiting I was given an opportunity to make my own plankton, and it should be noted that my shape floated the longest and even beat the times of CSMS teachers Mr. Hobson and Mr. O’Leary! Smile!

This program that the AES has of visiting the schools and having the Student-Teachers meet with other students in the County is not only an excellent learning tool but it also is an excellent way for middle school students to see what the Academy of Environmental Science is all about.

What is a Charter School Anyway?

The Academy of Environmental Science is Citrus County’s only Public Charter School. For those of you that don’t know what a public charter school is, they are very different from a Private Charter School. A public charter school is started through the public school board.  The public charter must, by Florida Statue, follow all the curriculum requirements of any public school, as defined by the Florida Department of Education and Statue.  The public charter staff and teachers must meet all the same requirements as any public school board employee or teacher.  Public charter students must take any standard tests that public school students do, such as the FCAT.  In a private charter school none of those requirements are mandated.

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