Friends of the Environment’s Abaco Science Fair 2013 took place on Nov. 22 at New Vision Ministries. This year’s theme was: “Human Impact on the Marine Environment.”
A welcome was given by Cassandra Abraham, FRIENDS education officer, before she called on the featured speaker – Jared Dillet of The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign. Dillet talked about conch habitats, human impact on conch fisheries in The Bahamas, and what they are doing to protect conchs. Additionally, Dillet shared that the Web site – communityconch.org – is a great resource for science teachers.
Every Child Counts, and Agape Christian School students submitted projects for the non-competitive high school category. Many of the projects were spin-offs of the theme and focused on overfishing as well as the impact of pollution and oil spills on coral reefs, the mangroves, conch, grouper, birds, seagrass beds and plants.
Projects were judged based on four criteria: originality, content, presentation/appearance and student explanation. Students represented Agape Christian School; Amy Roberts Primary School; St. Francis de Sales School; Angels Academy; Forest Heights Academy; Hope Town School and Man-O-War Primary School.
For the primary school category, Agape student Kaley White explained how oil spills affect the ocean environment by killing animals.
Man-O-War Primary School students put together a diagram of a landfill filled with battery acid and oil; a golf course with fertilizers and pesticides; and houses with cesspits and dredging that create runoff that enters the ocean and impacts marine life. The students also learned about coral reefs, the importance of biodiversity, and the benefits of using solar power. At the end of the project, students arranged a colorful booklet of photos, drawings and information to share what they discovered.
Next to them, Angels Academy students rocked their SOUP acronym. SOUP stands for: Save Our Underwater Paradise. The students determined that the public must be educated and that laws need to be passed and enforced to protect our marine resources. They visited a beach where they cleaned up the garbage they found, and used the discarded items in their project to show how garbage negatively impacts coral reefs.
For the senior schools, Marlique Hield, Mone’t Brown, Shar Fox, Abidemi Simon and Mikee Consulta of St. Francis de Sales School compared the average size of the conchs collected with those collected in the past, and measured the average lip thickness of the conch shell to determine the maturity of the conch. Conchs collected in the past were more mature, which demonstrates that juvenile conchs are being harvested.
Marlique suggested that fishermen take calipers to measure the conch, while Mone’t added that a simpler way to determine the maturity of a conch is to use a penny to measure the lip’s thickness.
Forest Heights students – Dashane Knowles, Yael Sawyer, Amanda Bethel and Tristan Albury –illustrated how developments impact marine ecosystems citing the mangroves in South Abaco.
Jenna Williams, a student of Forest Heights Academy, was assisted by Nicola Roberts and Kate Sims. They showed how oil causes plants in the ocean to photosynthesize less and produce less oxygen because direct sunlight and air are blocked. On a larger scale, the students said that humans will eventually be impacted, and as the population grows this will become a greater concern.
Raquel Albury and Joshua Bonamy of Agape built an electric motor using two 9-volt batteries. They also explored the alternatives of using solar power or wind because of people running boats back and forth with gas leaking from their engines.
Overfishing was Celena Russell’s focus. She surveyed 100 people on ways to increase the conch population noting that people prefer an open season on turtles and closed season on conch, which will allow them to regulate each other. Celena emphasized that education is key to addressing the problem of overfishing.
“I was surprised by people’s reactions because some don’t care until it’s too late,” Celena said. “Although they educate us in the schools, we must find a way to educate the older generation.”
Additional booths were set up by Friends of the Environment with activities like fish ID, colouring, and a Shark and Queen Conch Jeopardy Game. Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project, and Conchservation Campaign’s message on being conch police were promoted.
Joy Chaplin, FRIENDS Board member, announced the winners of the Abaco Science Fair. In the Lower Primary Division: Hope Town Primary was awarded first place; Man-O-War Primary, second; and Agape Christian School, third.
Hope Town placed first again in the Upper Primary Division, followed by Angels Academy in second place and Man-O-War Primary in third. Agape Christian and Forest Heights Academy placed first and second, respectively in the Junior High Division. Finally, in the Senior High Division, St. Francis de Sales swept the first place prize for the third consecutive year, and Agape Christian captured second place.
Students won exciting prizes like digital cameras, printers, equipment and microscopes for their schools.