Jeff Callies and Sean O'Brien, science teachers at Port Washington High School, share the exciting ways students are using the eRack in the classroom:
Port Washington High School has received a two shelf stand alone education rack from Aquaneering in the fall of 2016 after writing a proposal for an eRack giveaway. The eRack will be used as a cornerstone of research and exploration for the STEM curriculum in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes as well as AP Environmental Science and other traditional courses (chemistry, biology, etc.). The high school is itself going under some renovations and next year there will be a new science wing with a separate room designated for using the eRack and an aquaponics tank. Students will have the opportunity to work with zebrafish to study heart and genetic diseases along with other research topics.
After receiving the eRack, it was set up and cycled to make sure everything was working well. Temperature and water chemistry (pH, hardness, nitrates) were monitored for a stabilized environment to receive zebrafish.
Once the eRack was up and running, Dr. Michael Pickart of Concordia University – Wisconsin was helpful in going over the practical matters of setting up monitoring, schedules and testing to ensure a healthy environment for the zebrafish. Some of the details, such as how to correct water chemistry, establishing feeding schedules, room lighting, water exchanges, and cleaning were discussed. Many of the additional considerations for the eRack (food, water supplies and additives) were purchased and set up to prepare for receiving zebrafish.
The zebrafish adapted nicely to our rack set up, and students from PLTW and Ecology were invited to take a look at our system. Students were really excited about this as a functioning education tool. They had many questions for the teachers as to what will be studied, how did we monitor the chemistry, what was the feeding schedule like. Whenever new things happened with the fish, they were very eager to see and participate with what was going on.
Some students who were really engaged by the eRack and what was going on were asked if they liked to help out with monitoring and feeding. This provided those students with authentic record keeping and journaling of the conditions and making observations of the fishes’ behavior. It also provided us with information about the care and maintenance of the system from different points of view. Their concern and ownership of the fish was exciting as a new step into this endeavor.
It was noted that some of the fish were getting larger than the others. Since we had all the tanks occupied with different genders, it was obvious that the fish were spawning. Behaviors such as settling on the bottom or in a corner were good indicators that they were laying embryos. The fish were also consuming the embryos, because we never saw any of the evidence during the day.
It was then that it was decided to separate the fish from one tank from the bottom where the embryos could settle. A tank was chosen that had a fish that was ready to drop embryos and used the insert with grating on the bottom of it. After 2 – 3 days, it was observed that embryo sacks were at the bottom of the tank.
The embryos were moved to one of the smaller tanks at the top. The fish that had been separated using the insert were then moved back into the full tank so they had more room to move.
Using a stereoscope, an image of the larvae and its beating heart was shared with students.
Currently, all the fish we started with are doing well. Water is being turned over regularly and temperature and water chemistry is checked and recorded into a lab notebook. The larvae have grown into tiny fish at this point and although we have had some attrition of the larvae, many of them are doing well and will soon be transferred into a different tank on the system. There are students that are engaged in the care and husbandry of the zebrafish and have inquired about doing further research with them.
This summer will be a time of transition and as the installation of a more permanent location for the eRack at the new building happens, Concordia University – Wisconsin (CUW) will help that transition take place. Many thanks go out to Dr. Michael Pickart and CUW for their time and valuable help in this wonderful opportunity for our students. Also, thanks to Scott Schmutzler of Aquaneering for making the delivery of the eRack easy and quick. Thanks to Beth Freeman and Bobbi Baur of Aquaneering for keeping us in the loop, answering questions and being a valuable resource for novice zebrafish curators.