Five students participate in science conference dedicated to saving the planet

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For science teacher Sari Deitche, learning occurs just as much outside the classroom as it does in her elaborate setting, which includes a science lab, touch tanks and an aquarium. For that reason, five students from her 8th Grade Marine Science and Biology classes were able to attend and participate in the 18th Annual Regional Ocean Conference for Students (ROCS) held at the Florida Aquarium last week.

“It was a great experience for the kids to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in a setting with their peers from around the Tampa Bay region,” Mrs. Deitche said.

The students who attended included Eric Zhao ‘20, Dahlia Bagheri ‘19, Katie Milord ‘19, Evan Schlifstein ‘19 and Rich Zhang ‘19.

Initially funded through the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, ROCS brings together teachers, middle school and high school students, and Tampa Bay environmental science experts to discuss topics centered around marine and environmental science. The one-day workshop is designed to ignite the creative spirit of young people and give them the platform to assume leadership in change within the community.

This year’s theme was “Just Click It” and incorporated social media. Students listened to experts in the field and learned about issues affecting our oceans and the Tampa Bay Estuary, such as microplastics, and what they can do to solve the problem and/or reduce the problem, as well as get the word out and educate others.  

Throughout the conference, students posted photos of what they learned on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and SeaWorld myActions.org.   

The Farragut group chose to focus on how microbeads — which are included in hundreds of products ranging from body scrubs to toothpastes — pose a threat to the environment. According to a recent CNN article (http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/30/health/obama-bans-microbeads/), President Obama took steps at the end of 2015 to eliminate this pollutant by signing a bipartisan bill that prohibits selling and distributing products containing microbeads.

microplastics in soaps

Mrs. Deitche was most proud of her students, who she said were complimented throughout the day on the way they handled themselves with respect, when Rich Zhang contributed during a question-and-answer period following a presentation about shark finning by Julie Henry, who has close to 20 years experience in the conservation field. The Farragut students were well versed in the topic of shark finning because they had watched the highly acclaimed 2015 documentary, Racing Extinction that draws attention to mankind’s role in a potential loss of at least half of the world’s species.

According to Mrs. Deitche, Rich, who is a seven-day boarder from Shanghai, China, stood up and discussed why change in China surrounding the use of shark fins for medicinal use will be difficult.

“He was incredibly impressive,” said Mrs. Deitche. “He had learned from the film how shark fins do not contribute to curing cancer and he conveyed this to the audience, which numbered in the hundreds. Other students had sat when they had been asked questions, but he stood up and demonstrated confidence and passion. He gave people a perspective unlike any other because of where he is from.”

As Mrs. Deitche recalls, Rich described how appealing to logic as opposed to emotion would ultimately be the better method to eliminating shark fins from Chinese culture.

“A portion of Julie’s speech had been centered around emotional pleas for change and Rich described how his family — and other families — in China would understand change if they realized how their government was lying to them based on the myth that shark fins cure cancer,” said Mrs. Deitche. “He emphasized how scientific facts would have a much greater effect than anything.”

Following the presentation, Mrs. Deitche said Mrs. Henry approached her and complimented her on Rich’s response and said how beneficial it was to have input from someone with real life experience.

“It really demonstrated how our global community at Farragut comes into play on a local basis,” said Mrs. Deitche.

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