Eastside Elementary School fifth-grade students in Coweta County have been busy constructing fish attractors and placing them in West Point Lake.
The good works are a result of a newly established STEM club, where students learn more about science through hands-on projects. The fish-attracting structures were part of a larger effort that included learning more about fishing and aquatic biology.
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.
Tim Manley is a physical education teacher at Eastside who has a background in teaching high school science. He loves shooting, fishing and anything outside. He had the idea of making outdoor activities applicable to state science standards.
In March 2017, Tim started researching everything he would need to possibly start a STEM program at Eastside Elementary School. He found that there were very few clubs or programs of this kind in existence, which meant he had to look for help in other places.
“I pulled all the Georgia science standards from second to twelfth grade… And to get more research, I contacted the Department of Natural Resources and their folks down in Perry at the Go Fish Education Center,” said Tim.
With the help from the DNR, some of his own research and state science education standards, Tim soon began to come up with a curriculum of his own for Eastside Elementary School’s first STEM program. He held a meeting at the beginning of the school year and recruited 16 fifth graders for his new club.
“I started thinking about all the realms of science involved in fishing: biology, physics, hydrodynamics, physical science and even meteorology and climatology. And I started writing,” Tim said.
When Tim had a base and members for his club, he needed funds. This club sponsored several fundraisers: a STEM T-shirt sale, a “Kiss the Goat Contest” and the “Wright on Cue” barbecue sale. The club also received donations from local churches and businesses: Cathedral of Praise, Legacy Church, Home Depot, etc. The STEM club was also rewarded with a $650 Bright Ideas Grant from Coweta-Fayette EMC.
This year’s project for the group of students was building their own fish-attracting structures, while learning more about biology and aquatic conservancy. The students constructed about 30 attracting structures out of 5 gallon buckets, concrete, pool noodles and plastic piping and hoses, all donated by Home Depot.
“In September, October and December, the children learned about aquatic biology before they built their fish attractors,” said Tim.
The students picked out coordinates to place the attractors in West Point Lake. Tim and the students later took a boat out and used a GPS to go place the structures at the exact points. He has future plans to place more in a reservoir in Griffin. This spring, he wants to use a donated Aqua Vu camera to capture pictures of the (hopefully) thriving fish around the attracting structures.
Tim would like to extend the program in the future with other grades and other settings, as well as build onto his existing club. He is very interested in exploring more projects, field trips and learning opportunities for all future and veteran “STEMbers.”
“I truly feel as if this program can expand exponentially if its fire is given the right breath of support,” said Tim. “We need to indefatigably continue to reach out to businesses, media and other stakeholders for support…. I want to continue to work with the DNR, and I want to create relationships with churches, community and business partners. Without their support, programs like this will not exist.”