Stratton’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Project

Doing Science.


“This learning experience is not an ordinary science lesson, but rather an ongoing project that has allowed students to find a passion and love for learning.”    -Elizabeth Shockey, UI education student


Brandon Rutherford’s third grade students are able to think like marine biologists with the help of an It’s My I.D.E.A grant and the $1,000 donated to the school’s aquarium project.  Mr. Rutherford started this project with one small fresh water tank and it has evolved into a school wide project.  Stratton Elementary School now houses 10 salt water aquarium tanks, each containing their own ecosystems and hundreds of living creatures.


Starting in 3rd grade, students have the opportunity to become involved in the aquarium project.  Student’s roles include feeding and taking care of the fish, cleaning the tanks, observing the tanks to make sure everything’s running smoothly, doing water tests, and changing the water.

“There’s so many cool things about the aquariums that you can write about. It inspires you to read a lot of books about the fish and learn more about them.”


Students involved in the aquarium work are “hired” and stay after school multiple days a week to work on the tanks.  Most students have become so interested in the aquariums that they now choose to read books on a variety of topics related to salt water ecosystems.  Maintaining the tanks requires students to write observations and document thier findings.  Along with reading and writing skills students practice math when calculating how much food to feed the fish and how much water to add to the tanks.

“Working with the aquariums can also teach you to take care of the oceans in real life.  If the reef cleaner shrimp were extinct many other fish that rely on it could also die out and go extinct.”