Cameron GEAR UP students tour the Oklahoma Aquarium

Twenty-four Cameron 6th and 7th grade GEAR UP students recently traveled to Jenks to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium. Students were given a personal tour of the Aquarium by Education Specialists Michelle Zarantonello including some “behind the scenes” looks.

The tour began in the Shark Adventure exhibit which is home to ten bull sharks and three nurse sharks. The tank itself is made of acrylic which is four inches thick. While acrylic can scratch more easily than glass, it is stronger than glass. Students learned that these sharks are fed twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, which is frequent compared to the sharks in the wild where they may only eat once a month.

Students saw the new Polynesian Reef display opening in the summer of 2018 that will feature a dramatic collection of fish from the Indo-Pacific region. The reef will contain many new coral and fish. Students learned that many coral are given their color by the algae that live on them. Sometimes when the living conditions of coral are interrupted by things such as rising temperatures, the algae can die, thus losing their color and resulting in “coral bleaching.

Students then got a “behind the scenes” tour into the kitchen. They learned that when the food for the animals arrives, it is frozen. The freezing process can lessen its nutritional value. The workers add a vitamin paste back to the food to ensure the animals are receiving the proper nutrition.

Students were then led up a set of stairs to the top of the open water shark tank. The aquarium makes its own salt water and the shark tank filters almost half a million gallons of salt water every hour and fifteen minutes.

“The Oklahoma Aquarium is a great field trip,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Leslie Hemphill. “The students enjoyed all of the ‘behind the scenes’ information we received.”

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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