Large tanks bubble as koi do slow, meandering laps. Aquariums gurgle while lobsters peer through the glass. Vats of seaweed prepare to be processed. Elsewhere, fiberglass bends over a wooden frame and a boat hull starts to take shape. Cabinets are filled with beakers for tomorrow’s experiments. Several research vessels sit at a dock outside, ready for their next venture to the Long Island Sound.
For a high school student interested in aquaculture – that is, the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants – this setting might sound like a dream. After all, the facility houses an aquaculture lab, a computer-assisted design lab, a boat construction lab, a ship bridge simulator and more. It appears to be a lair used by professional scientists, but these tools and others are available to scientists in training – students of the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Center, or Aqua, for short, in Bridgeport, Conn.
At Aqua, students from school systems in the region can enhance the traditional high school curriculum with unique aquaculture classes. Students here get the opportunity to study marine ecology, seafood science, biology, chemistry, physics, marine design, coastal navigation/piloting and more. It’s a combination of world-class facilities, diverse coursework and great teachers that cause many students and families to make every effort to participate.
“Students come from seven school districts for two-hour blocks,” says Liz Kranyik, the ag biology and seafood science teacher, and FFA advisor, at Aqua. “Most students really want to be here. They want experiences they won’t get elsewhere, so our emphasis is to try to get them to use all of our facilities in some way.”
Students share the same impression.
“I initially went to a different school for science classes, but I transferred there based on the school’s reputation,” says Casey O’Connor, an Aqua graduate and former Bridgepo