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FISH GOTTA SWIM© is our grant and donation-funded public school program that provides dynamic, hands-on science education to underserved middle school students in Savannah.

It’s all about the water!  Water quality matters – to humans and wildlife alike – and it is affected by natural forces as well as the actions of people.  The Savannah coast is graced with an abundant variety of wetlands.  This public school semester of learning engages middle school students with the outdoors and involved in making discoveries about their own backyard. We provide life experiences for all these students, many of whom have never ridden on a boat or touched a turtle. Everybody gets excited about observing alligators; we get involved in food webs when we watch herons and osprey fishing, find a pile of rabbit fur beneath a white-stained branch, discover owl pellets full of cracked bones under another branch, or even scoop up carnivorous plants and invertebrates.  Students test several factors of water quality in these wetlands, linking basic life needs of the life they find to the water in which it lives.

Funded by grants, donations, and proceeds of our nature discovery tours, Fish Gotta Swim© (FGS) is topic-centered, hands-on science enrichment  course.  By emphasizing curiosity and the scientific process, we elevate science education into learning how to learn.  FGS engages middle school students in explorations of water quality in local wetlands.  It is project based and hands-on.  All the while it gives life experiences to these public school students in this region that continually tests below national averages in science.  We are in the twelfth year of providing these experiences to Savannah Public School middle school students.

We named our nine-session course Fish Gotta Swim©. But we all know fish have to do more than swim; this is really a semester of water quality studies that combines “earth science” and “life science.  Students investigate how the species of a habitat (including humans) and the non-living components of the habitat affect one another.  Through field studies,students’ natural curiosity and creativity is encouraged as they increase their capacity for discovery and acquire conceptual knowledge of the processes upon which life depends.

Classroom laboratory experiments complement and expand the field studies, allowing further discoveries about water in biology, chemistry, and physics. Applying the scientific process, students practice critical thinking skills, and then use their new knowledge and experiences to participate in an intellectual debate and produce a culminating project tackling a local current issue. Additionally, please know that we provide Fish Gotta Swim© to underserved Public Schools in Savannah, funded almost entirely by proceeds from our private tours combined with grants and direct donations.

Although we often don’t have sufficient funds to provide the program to all of our city’s middle schools, we do all we can both to  improve science education and to provide life experiences to Savannah’s underserved populations.   Please help us continue to provide these students with the experience of their lives, as they investigate species from dragonfly nymphs to alligators, and sample the waters of both estuary and the Savannah River. 

The unit is also available as either a complete package taught by WiSE educators, or as a series of field trips with supporting labs to be taught by the classroom teacher.

Kris Michaels

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