Carroll County Career & Tech students learn to construct oyster reefs

By:   Michel Elben   Contact Reporter, Carroll County Times

March 2, 2016

Carefully smoothing out concrete inside a bell-shaped structure with a rubber mallet, Francis Scott Key High School senior and masonry student Sarah Kramer worked with Chesapeake Bay Foundation employees Wednesday afternoon to create reef balls at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster.

The reef balls are part of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland’s Living Reef Action Campaign.

“I’m happy to be part of a project that helps other people,” Kramer said. “I’m being taught how to make them, and I’ll teach other people how to put them together.”

Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland President Rick Elyar said the group partnered with Carroll County Public Schools about a month ago at the request of Westminster High School’s CCA club. Elyer said the group aims to restore nearly 3 million wild oysters to the Chesapeake Bay by creating an artificial reef.

Career and Tech students will cast 200 2-by-2-foot reef balls that CCA will place in the mid-Chesapeake Bay this summer. According to Elyar, an oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. One reef ball will produce 2,000 oysters, creating a natural mechanism to remove the bay’s excess nutrients.

Westminster High School junior Josh Kosmicki, who is president of the school’s Coastal Conservation Association, said he hopes this project will help inspire students to be more bay-wise.

“In Carroll County, because we’re not so close to the bay, we have trouble motivating people to get involved,” Kosmicki said. “I like the whole premise of the project. The bay is such a delicate ecosystem. It needs our help.”

While some students mixed cement donated by Lehigh Cement Co. in Union Bridge, CBF’s Oyster Restoration Coordinator Dan Johannes worked with Kramer and other students to affix a bell-like frame to plywood. CBF’s Patrick Beall sprayed the inside of the frame with sugar water and added sand to the mold to seal the bottom.

To create entrance and exit holes for the artificial habitat, the group inserted tetherballs and a large bladder ball into the mold. Then students shoveled and smoothed the cement in the structure, which was created with additives and aggregates from concrete supplier Thomas Bennett & Hunter Inc. in Westminster. After the structures dry overnight, students will deflate the balls and remove the reefs from the molds.

“This is awesome,” Johannes said. “It’s nice to see them getting involved in projects like this to save the bay. Their eagerness to learn is the best.”

Carroll County Public Schools Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Coordinator Bryan Shumaker said the reef ball project was great because of the multidisciplinary approach.

“The science and mathematics of mixing concrete is something we teach every day, but this project helps our students see how what they create can make an amazing habitat for dozens of different bay organisms,” Shumaker said.

Tech Center masonry instructor Mike Campanile said he and students are proud to be part of an environmental project.

“This is right up our alley,” Campanile said. “It’s cool to have them put their hands on something permanent that they can sign their names to. When they see headlines about the Chesapeake Bay restoration, they’ll know they’re part of it.”

North Carroll High School junior and masonry student Austin Lowe, who helped mix the concrete, said the project was something unique for the class.

“It was definitely different and something I’ve never done before. I think it was a good learning experience,” Lowe said.


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