Special education students experience ocean life

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 5/20/97.

Last week, Dawn Yost's special education class, at the Paynesville Area Middle School, brought their oceanography unit to a fun-filled close with a seafood lunch and a trip to Underwater World at the Mall of America.

The special education students began their oceanography unit by studying oceans and the different and varied life forms that are sustained beneath the waves. Each student then chose a specific sea animal, prepared a report, and also typed it using a computer. When the report was finished, the students learned to use a video camera and filmed each other presenting their individual reports to the class.

In most classes, this would have finished up the unit study, but Ms. Yost wanted her class to experience ocean life firsthand, rather than end with only the information they read about in a library book, or watched on a video; so she wrote a letter to Byerly's supermarket in St. Cloud and asked if they would consider donating several different fresh seafood items so the class would be able to see and taste some of the things they had studied. Byerly's agreed, and donated several items, including sea scallops, shrimp, smelt, crab legs, and even a live lobster.

Even though a few students were somewhat leery, they all tried at least a bite of one item, and most found they even liked the taste. Although one student, at first, refused to take even a small bite, as he was saving room for that day's lunchroom pizza, he was later convinced to try one piece of smelt and decided it tasted like chicken.

Last Wednesday, the students all took a field trip to Bloomington's Mall of America to see Underwater World, a massive aquarium exhibit where people walk through a tunnel, as ocean, sea, and fresh water life swim above and all around them. They went from the lake and stream area, where giant walleye, northern, musky, and other fresh water fish swam, to the ocean area, where the students saw some larger sea life such as sharks, eels, and sting rays.

Previously, in class, each student had prepared their own fish t-shirt for the occasion, which they wore there for the first time. Each shirt was complete with their name, and a detailed image of a fish, which they were able to recreate by rolling a whole fish in paint, and then pressing it onto the front.

With their seafood lunch, t-shirts, and the Underwater World, this learning experience will be one they'll remember for a long time.

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