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Jan 17, 2012 7:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton High School Unveils Marine Science Wet Lab

Jan 18, 2012 11:14 AM

A mandarin goby swam its way through a glowing blue tank while clownfish flitted in and out of anemones. A few feet away, students salted a 1,200-gallon touch tank that is expected to soon house groupers and other sea life, as well as mimic tidal flow. Seahorses swam in a corner tank. In an opposite corner swam four whitespotted bamboo sharks. A 925-gallon coral reef display stood waiting in anticipation of creatures.

But this isn’t Atlantis Marine World. Welcome to Southampton High School’s brand new marine science wet lab, a 2,600-square-foot area that includes a greenhouse and algae culture room that is intended to give students at the Narrow Lane school—which sits about a mile from the ocean—a more in-depth look at the aquatic environment that surrounds them and covers most of the Earth.

The second-floor lab, which was created in a new addition to the building overlooking the school’s athletic fields, is part of a nearly $53.5 million ongoing renovation project involving all three district schools, an expenditure approved by voters in February 2007.

Maria Smith, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, and Randall Dobler, the director of facilities, operations and school safety, said they were unable to provide a breakdown of the cost of the lab itself. Construction on the wing that includes the lab began toward the end of the summer of 2010.

The lab also includes about 70 oceanography system tanks and 18 brood stock sys-

tem tanks, where fish are bred. The algae room is designed to grow algae as food for the fish. The greenhouse, meanwhile, will eventually feature 16 30-gallon tanks for eelgrass research and two 6-foot-by-4-foot tanks meant for eelgrass restoration, according to Southampton High School marine science teacher Greg Metzger.

“Eelgrass is like the tree of the forest,” he said. “It is a nursery ground for most of the commercially important fish that we like to catch and eat.”

Oceanography and aquaculture classes were previously taught in a regular classroom—one not designed for wet uses, Mr. Metzger pointed out, referring to the lack of floor drains, for example. As a result, aquarium water would seep into classrooms below.

Members of the public will be able to tour the new lab, in classroom 216A, and the algae room, in 215A, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, January 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“I’d like this lab to kind of have a little bit of all the major biomes in the world,” Mr. Metzger explained as he roved between tanks during a recent class, a “Southampton, NY” baseball cap with a shark image on his head. “So this will represent, for the most part, Shinnecock Bay or Peconic Bay, or any of the local bays on Long Island. So we’ll have striped bass in here, a lot of the larger, local things.”

Most of the tropical fish were either bought or donated from local pet shops, Mr. Metzger said. Some of the fish, like a short bigeye, however, were a different case.

“This was actually caught locally even though it’s a tropical visitor,” he said, standing beside the bigeye’s tank, one large piscine eye peering back at him. “In the summertime, the Gulf Stream brings up the larval fish and the waters here on Long Island are warm enough to keep them alive. We actually saved his life. He would have died when the water got too cold.”

With the enthusiasm of a scuba diver who has spied a rare species, Mr. Metzger said he believes the new wet lab will improve his students’ scientific studies.

“They’ll be able to touch, feel and smell marine science,” he said, “as opposed to looking at it in a book or SmartBoard.”

About 120 to 140 students are expected to take classes in the new lab, Mr. Metzger estimated. Southampton students can choose oceanography as an elective as early as 10th grade. The following year, they can take an aquaculture class, provided they pass the oceanography prerequisite and earn Mr. Metzger’s approval. With the new lab, a new course—hatchery management—will be offered. That class will start with the next marking period, on January 30, Mr. Metzger said.

While the lab was being completed this fall, students in Mr. Metzger’s class took a “hatchery design and setup” class, a one-time-only class in which students helped build the coral for the reef tanks, for example.

Students in the hatchery design and setup class were heartened by the new lab.

“It’s awesome,” said Victoria Wisner, 17, of North Sea. “We’re on an island. It’s all around you. You can’t escape it. You need to know about the environment that you live in.”

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Our tax dollars at work. Absolutely ridiculous. They built the school about 40 yrs ago and included a planetarium? Was that worth it? Other than giving students a place to snooze while going to class, I don't think so.

This school wastes so much money it's incredible. I just wish an independent team of auditors would just show up unexpectedly one day and start going over things with a fine tooth comb. The unnecessary spending would probably run well into the millions.

Do ...more
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Jan 18, 12 4:43 PM
itsamazing and you are aso ldumb. The school was opened in 1974 so it is only 37 years old. We who voted for it voted down a swimming pool. Trying to keep costs under control yet we did like the idea of the planetrium. Too bad the powers of that day did not use it to full capabilities. So if you are so smart go ahead and offer your mathmatical abilities and do the audit free of charge thus saving$$$$.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jan 20, 12 8:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
To me, this is the epitome of not teaching to the test, but giving students a real different and unique science experience that many in the country, especially not in such a small public school, will experience.

I can't speak to the planetarium, but this looks like a great idea to me.
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Jan 18, 12 5:13 PM
c-law, I could not agree more. This is an example of teaching critical thinking to kids and a much-needed departure from standardized testing.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 19, 12 4:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
you are so right, it prepares them for education beyond high school. So many great students flounder when the move on to college level study, because they are forced to think. There are not many multiple choice test once you hit college. Something to think about.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 20, 12 11:49 AM
This seems like a nice luxury--but I don't think that luxuries should be sought after when the elementary school is listed as an underperforming school. Perhaps a better use of OUR MONEY could be used to help get that school up to par, rather than squandered on something like this.
p.s.-itsamazing, great comparison to the planetarium. Very expensive, and I can't remember more than a dozen students who utilized it while I attended that school.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 18, 12 8:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
This updated marine science lab seems like a good project that will benefit a large number of kids. The money to build the planetarium years ago was money given by the government to be used for Shinnecock students. There's a plaque by the door referring to where the money came from, though neither they or most other students got much use out of the place, and an unpleasant story is connected with room.

A previous superintendent and several staff members told me the money was spent on building ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jan 18, 12 10:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
That is a horrible story. I can't speak to the validity of it, but I have no reason to see it being untrue. But I'd like to point out something... "The money to build the planetarium years ago was money given by the government to be used for Shinnecock students" translation-- it's still OUR MONEY!! (just happens to be earmarked for a more specific use than regular funds)
All I'm stressing is that this money would be better spent on a school that is about to (within the next 2 years) ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 19, 12 1:15 AM
I NEVER EVER heard any parent say they didn't want their child swiming in the proposed pool because of color. No local person that I know of was that prejudiced. My husband and i voted against it because of $ but also because of the water all around us and the fact that any child, color or not, was able to get FREE swimming lessons and transportation to the teaching site.
Death threats? You make me laugh! Nobody thought SERIOUSLY like that. Any bigot that felt the threat of color was not brought ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jan 20, 12 8:27 AM
I am glad to hear that Goldenrod's account of the swimming pool debacle was innaccurate. Regarding the teacher from hampton bays in the seventies--Did she use tax payers money for this program at a time when another school within the same district was in danger of being crucified by the state because of poor performance? The answer is "no." I have nothing against a program such as this, but I think that this incident shows poor resource management by a school district that is clearly making the ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 20, 12 8:57 AM
Just because summertime is not aware of any threats or racially motivated dissention, in regards to the pool, does not mean that its not true. There was plenty of bigotry in Southampto during that era. As for the planitarium, I remember plenty of field trip there when I was a kid and I and my schoolmates loved it. Its a tool just like anyother...its there and should be used.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 20, 12 11:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
I stand by my statements because they are true - like them or not.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jan 20, 12 1:18 PM
Can you one trick ponies take a long walk? We live on the ocean approximately 90 miles out in the Atlantic on the tip of an island. Do you think it might make sense to have a marine biology center at the high school? It took 5 comments to get to racism, the reservation, a 65 year old planetarium, where the money came from for that 65 year old planetarium, threats of public mud dragging, people wishing for a team of auditors to descend on the school wrapped up by a bunch of uninformed guesswork ...more
Jan 19, 12 6:40 AM appended by ....Loading
I did mean to like your comment...because it is completely incoherent.
By ....Loading (3), Southampton on Jan 19, 12 6:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
What makes more sense-- Teaching already apt students about a the ocean (earth science already covered that), or helping the children that are being written off by the same school district? The answer is obvious. As for the "threat" of public mud dragging- just you watch, the elemenatry school is on the list of underperforming schools, and if they don't correct the situation within a certain amount of time, then a number of state penalties and regualtions kick in. This combined with a few awful ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 19, 12 2:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is a shame when a school "underperforms". Educators know there are many reasons for that. Some is lack of $$, some is lack of parental interest, some is poor teaching ability, some is student interest or lack thereof. It usually is all of the above.
Since I moved to "away" I have seen the effects in the southern schools. It is sad to know that American schools are/have fallen so low.
It is sad to know that the governments of the southern boarder states have allowed the hispanics to live ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jan 20, 12 9:15 AM
I attended the opening of the Marine Science Wet Lab at Southampton High School last evening. It was wonderful.
Let us put aside all the negatives and cheer for all the positives. The opening of the Lab brought together so many members of our community. Educators, government officials, students, construction workers, business officials and curious citizens came together to celebrate.
What a wonderful addition to our school! Here is a "hands on" teaching tool for our students. The research ...more
By Hampton Hillbilly (10), Hampton Bays on Jan 21, 12 11:05 AM
The Wet Lab is GREAT! My daughter is in the elementary school and now she can't wait to get to high school to study in the wet lab. I only wish I had the same opportunities she has in our wonderful community!!!
By scottso (18), southampton on Jan 23, 12 3:27 PM