Poteau seventh grade boys visit the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks

Forty-four seventh grade Poteau GEAR UP students recently travel to the Oklahoma Aquarium. The aquarium is home to many species of fish, sharks, and other sea life as well as wildlife native to Oklahoma. Students explored exhibits as well as touched aquatic animals up close and personal.

The aquarium houses many touch tanks. Students were able to feel shrimp, starfish, muscles, sharks, and stingrays within these tanks. One exhibit, which held larger stingrays than the touch tank, allowed students to feed small shrimp to the stingrays as they swam by.

Shark Adventure is home to ten bull sharks and three nurse sharks. Students walked through the shank tank tunnel where they observed the sharks swimming beside them as well as overhead. The open-water tank is made of four-inch thick acrylic and filters almost half a million gallons of salt water every hour and fifteen minutes. The acrylic is stronger and lighter than a glass aquarium would be and less resistant to scratches. The sharks are constantly losing and replacing teeth, which can be seen scattered on the bottom of the tank.

Students saw familiar faces at the “Aquatic Oklahoma” exhibit. This exhibit is home to frogs, fish, and turtles native to Oklahoma, including a 120-year-old alligator snapping turtle. Frogs in Oklahoma fall into two different families. They are either a tree frog or a true frog. True frogs are better equipped for water-life. Students also saw paddlefish, one of Oklahoma’s largest fish that can live up to 50 years.

“The aquarium provides students the opportunity to not only see aquatic life beyond our state, but also the creatures that inhabit our local streams and ponds they otherwise may not have known are native to Oklahoma,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Leslie Hemphill.

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. In 2017, Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.

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