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Released July 2, 2003


BILOXI - An internship "behind the scenes" at The University of Southern Mississippi's Scott Aquarium has Hancock High School science teacher Brian Fitch thinking about new strategies for his classroom.

The Bay St. Louis resident teaches microbiology and environmental science and has just finished a two-week internship as part of Mississippi Gulf Coast School-to-Career Partnership. The program places teachers in working environments at businesses, institutions and organizations on the coast so they can take real-world experiences in various careers back to their classrooms.

"I fed sharks, fed snakes, cleaned tanks, learned how to use a spectrophotometer and dissolved oxygen meter and lots of other things," Fitch said. "It was a challenge learning how to properly feed all the different types of organisms at the aquarium, especially learning their nutritional needs."

Fitch, who has been keeping various kinds of animals since he was small, described his Scott Aquarium experience with the predominantly Gulf of Mexico marine and coastal critters as "like being a kid in a candy store."

He credits his learning experiences in large part to Scott Aquarium's head aquarist, Buck Schesny. Schesny was his primary mentor during the internship and is a recent recipient of Southern Miss's annual staff excellence award in the category of skilled crafts.

"He is very knowledgeable about all aspects of this job," Fitch said. "He has so much practical knowledge, and he can also build just about anything he needs in the aquarium.

"I love animals, and this experience reinforced a lot of what I already knew. It stressed hygiene, proper nutrition and meeting the animals' basic needs," Fitch said.

The teacher intern said the difference in scale was definitely a new experience: large fish, large tanks and large filtration systems along with specialized instruments and laboratory equipment to help maintain the health of the animals and their environments.

In the midst of work that was demanding physically and intellectually, Fitch came to some conclusions about what he wants to take back to his classroom in August.

"I am going to have more of an ecological approach," he said. "In all my classes, even microbiology, we are going to spend more time outdoors, collecting and observing naturally occurring organisms."

The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium is part of the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM