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The Marine Science Academy (MSA) at Pensacola’s Booker T. Washington High School engages students in science through laboratory experimentation, research, and field study. Eleventh graders in the MSA conduct weekly field work on two different community-based initiatives:

Bringing Back the Bayous involves teams of students conducting water sampling and testing at four local sites. Students use established research protocols to evaluate specific nutrient loads (e.g., total nitrogen), submit data to a community website, and present their findings—including areas of concern and possible solutions—in a public forum. Below is a snapshot of measured nutrient loads documented by the students on their lab’s whiteboard.

WHS WetLab5

The Diversity and Abundance of Nearshore Species initiative has students sampling the species at four local sites and conducting a “Shannon Diversity Index Study” to assess the health and success of coastal restoration projects. The students’ work also serves as baseline data for comparison of any future restoration sites. As with Bringing Back the Bayous, this initiative affords students an opportunity to share the data on a community website and present their findings in a public forum. Below is a snapshot of the student’s whiteboard showing measured diversity of species, eight different (A-H) species documented; what’s tough to see is the number of shrimp and the foot-long barracuda that also made it into the seine net samples!

WHS WetLab19

In addition to these community initiatives, students in the Marine Science Academy learn science through a “team selected research project,” a “naturalist project,” and a “fishkeeper project.” Three of the team research projects this year include studies on aquaponics, operant conditioning, and dominant species. More on these in tomorrow’s What’s Right post. Making waves in science education? Absolutely! The teachers and students of the Marine Science Academy are not only learning about science, they are educating their community about science.




Some content for this post adapted from the 2013 Marine Science Academy brochure, available here.

Special thanks to Mr. Edward Bauer, Honors Biology and Marine Sciences II instructor at Booker T. Washington High School, Escambia County School District, Pensacola, Florida, for sharing the work he, his colleagues, and students are doing in the Marine Science Academy.

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