Students at Saint Mark’s Episcopal School in South Florida have inaugurated a unique experiential STEM curriculum aimed at promoting awareness and solutions to sea level rise, water quality, marine habitats, hydropower and the identification of microplastics, perennial chemicals and other contaminants . SeaLab is an on-campus, engineered tide pool built on Fort Lauderdale’s Middle River that enables students to learn and test solutions to address global water and sustainability issues.
“A scientist in California once told me that there is no more water on this earth,” shared Dr. Spencer Taintor, Headmaster of Saint Mark’s with. “What we currently have is all we will ever have. Our students see water all around them in the ocean, in rivers, and in the Everglades. It may feel endless, but we must teach our youth that water is both precious and scarce and the water quality crisis is increasing every day. We hope this will inspire students, both from our school and beyond, to be problem solvers rather than just passive observers in solving these problems.”
Educational tools like SeaLab teach students about sustainability and the environment. It encourages children to be more involved in their communities while fostering the critical and creative thinking skills needed to solve tomorrow’s problems.
Developed and designed with help from Brizaga, SeaLab is a 20-by-20-foot tidal pool located behind a seawall in a river basin with a twice-daily tidal wave of 2-3 feet. Holes have been drilled into the wall separating the river from the tide pool, allowing water and marine life to flow in and out naturally with the tides. An internal dock structure was built to allow students access to the water to conduct experiments.
“Our students will be able to use SeaLab in conjunction with modules and experiments developed by our university partners to identify and test harmful pollutants in our waterways while raising awareness of the issue at a local level . You get the knowledge and tools to go outside and find solutions,” Taintor said.
University partners include Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Arts and Sciences, the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
SeaLab was designed to address multiple local challenges in South Florida, but with applications that can help other communities across the country. Students are tasked with creating economical levees to limit saltwater intrusion. You will also look at microplastics in water supplies and bodies of water. There are also plans to start oyster seeding and explore tidal hydroelectric power generation.
“Put simply, the world’s water is in trouble, and it’s becoming increasingly scarce and increasingly polluted,” said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginClear. “The positive side is that something can be done about these problems. The more we bring them to light, nurturing our curiosity and encouraging the idea that there are solutions that can be found in the younger generation, the better the world we will all live in. It is truly incredible to see young minds interested in protecting our environment and I think any resources and encouragement we can give them now will greatly improve the future of our beautiful planet.”
When asked what else is in the works for Saint Mark’s Episcopal School and its students, Dr. Taintor: “We are currently in the design and approval phase for wet labs to complement the SeaLab, which will allow us to continue experimenting with water recycling and other bodies of water.”