Inaugural Aquarius Challenge presentations move online

Middle schoolers in Fort Lauderdale have reimagined the world’s only underwater laboratory.

Powerpoint presentation of Aquarius Challenge

Part 1, Team 3 - Designing Aquarius 2.0
Student project for the Aquarius Challenge

The students in Elizabeth Fahy’s Ocean Exploration class worked for months to fine-tune their ideas for a new Aquarius as part of the inaugural Aquarius Academy Challenge. They worked in groups. Some focused on engineering and design while others took the lead on newsletters and marketing materials. They worked through the Aquarius Academy lessons, chatted with FIU Aquanauts from their classroom and practiced mock presentations.

They were gearing up for their final showcase when the coronavirus pandemic threw everything into question. With schools closed, what would happen to the worked they planned to show the FIU Aquarius Academy Team in person?

When teaching shifted online, so did their presentations.

Students in class working on their projects

“The students were able to advance their 21st century communication skills through a virtual meeting presentation and colleagues from around the district were able to tune in,” said Fahy, the marine sciences teacher at New River Middle School. “Although initially nervous, these kids were able to shine in their presentations of imaginative advances for the next Aquarius habitat, leading their peers with their ‘I can do anything’ mentality toward exploring the world’s oceans.”

Some students found that collaboration wasn’t always easy but it led to interesting new ideas for what an Aquarius 2.0 could offer.

Teams suggested including an escape pod to shoot aquanauts to the surface in case of an emergency, including a built-in solution to scrub the air of harmful carbon dioxide and a central courtyard with coral nurseries.

Fahy was among a group of educators whose students participated in the most recent Aquarius Academy. The academy features project-based learning built around Aquarius that offers standards-based activities focused on core scientific concepts for students in grades 6 to 12.

“I am always trying to find new, hands-on learning activities to keep the students interested and engaged in learning,” Fahy said. “The topics involved were diverse and motivating for all students and led to increased class participation across the board.”