Monday, May 19, 2014

Student Reflection

by Nicole Mathes

A School of Fish

Recently, Ms. Perez’s class got a big fish tank with two clownfish and two snails. I have never seen a class so excited about a fish tank or so interested in learning about the different types of fish, coral, algae, and snails. The students were so eager to learn that Ms. Perez set up a time to Skype the man, Ben, who gave the class the tank and fish (as a background note: from my understanding, there is a company that donates the fish and tanks to schools who apply and ask for the donation and give a specific reason for wanting one. This man was an employee of the company).

Ben was very patient and answered all the students’ questions. Over the course of the Skype session, I learned the following:
  • you cannot put more than two clownfish together in a tank because they do not get along with other clown fish (two is company, three is a crowd). However, they get along with other types of fish.
  • there are SEVERAL types of snails that act as filters. Some snails can live together and others cannot.
  • the snails that Ms. Perez’s class had are vicious snails (if put together with other snails and/or fish, they would eat them), so they live in their own tank—a filter tank that’s connected to the main tank.
  • as pretty as fish tanks look with the colored rocks, coral, algae, and other plants, you should not fill the tank to its full capacity.
  • every single part of the fish tank plus everything inside the aquarium serves a purpose.
But the most important thing that I learned was that the small things make a big difference. I never imagined that having a fish tank in the classroom would have such an impact on the students. This fish tank has encouraged the students to be critical thinkers and scientists, more observant and responsible, and it has gotten them excited to learn. The Skype session lasted for 30minutes, which is a long time for third graders to pay attention. The students had an abundance of questions and I was pleasantly surprised at the types of questions they asked. They wanted to know why clown fish don’t get along, what other types of snails they could have, why coral was good to have in a tank, and why some of the algae looked bent and darker instead of straight up and light. On the wall next to the fish tank I noticed that the students wrote hypotheses about the fish tank such as if you put the fish tank near light, ___ will happen or if you put snails in the tank, ___ will happen. The class has had the tank for a month now and the fascination and excitement is still present among them.

So what does a fish tank have to do with volunteering in the community? Well, a lot actually. In order to have a fully-functioning tank, you need a tank, saltwater, coral, fish food, filters, snails (for some tanks), cleaning supplies, sea plants, and different types of fish, not just one. A community also requires a lot of individual components. For example, the community at Garden Hills needs principals, teachers, secretaries, students, a school, classrooms, school supplies, volunteers, and so much more. You also need a variety of “people” or “fish.” Just as Ben said that clown fish don’t get along if you have several of them together in one tank, a school community will not be successful if you have only teachers or only students, or if you have only girls and no boys. Everyone’s unique talents help make the community function just as different parts of the fish aquarium make it functioning. And, just as the presence of a fish tank had a major influence on the students, one volunteer can make a huge difference in the classroom. I may not have noticed how much of a difference I made in Ms. Perez’s class every single time that I volunteered, but I know that I did impact the classroom overall. So the next time I think that I’m not making a difference or that my presence doesn’t really matter, I’ll think back to Ms. Perez’s class and the fish tank and remember that small things do really make a difference.

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