Tech center held up as example for state

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2005

GREENSBORO-The Hale County School System’s career technology center was recognized as one of the top sites in the state Thursday. To showcase the site, educators from around the state arrived early in the afternoon to examine some of the center’s programs.

The program that drew the most attention was the aqua-science center. At this center, students raise fish and plants in a very unique way. Fish are placed in a large container where water is filtered out into a tank. The solid waste is removed and the water is used to sustain nearby plant-life. In turn, the plants take nitrates out of the water and it is returned to the fish as a clean product.

The program is especially beneficial in Hale County because of the important role catfish farming plays. Several of the students take on summer jobs at the farms. Some even plan to apply the knowledge they gain at the aqua-science center to their college careers.

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Aqua-science instructor Richard Byrne said the program is in its third year and the response from students has been great. He said they use the center to give the students a hands on approach to the scientific world.

“We are able to take an aspect of what is happening in our environment and use it here,” Byrne said. “At the same time we are also able to have a very hands-on science class. About 70 percent of our time is spent right here rather than a traditional classroom.”

Students from Hale County, Akron and Greensboro East and West high schools come to the center each day. Each student, Byrne said, is responsible for making sure the equipment is in order.

“If something has to be done, they do it,” Byrne said. “This morning we had a situation where our pump was giving us fits and they took care of it. They plant, harvest and maintain everything here.”

In the aqua-science program, students use math, biology and chemistry. They also use their hands. Byrne said he had always enjoyed teaching science, but felt an active approach was more effective.

“I am a science teacher, but from the very beginning I have wanted a hands on class,” Byrne said. “This system is great because it lets us do that.”

The tour was arranged by Bevill State Community College and consisted of 50 educators from all levels, state career tech director Sherry Key said.

“We put together 50 participants and let them choose which tour they wanted to go on,” Key said. “We ended up with superintendents, assistant superintendents, career tech directors, teachers and postsecondary representatives, workforce development representatives. We have traveled for three days learning what we could about these programs.”

The tour, Key said, was all about trading ideas.

“The neatest thing about this is that these people will take these ideas back to their own system to replicate and model these programs,” Key said. “Other systems can take a look at some of the things they are doing here and come back. They may also get enough information and say this is something we can do.”