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Kindergartners Studying Science for Sandy Hook

Aquarium now home to 26 fish in honor of 26 victims

January 29, 2013
By SARAH HARMON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Elm Grove Elementary's kindergarten class found a way to commemorate the victims of the December school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as they learn about science.

In honor of the 26 Sandy Hook victims, the class set up a science center with an aquarium containing 26 tropical fish and other aquatic life to help the children learn about biology.

The aquarium was funded through a monetary gift from the congregation of St. Paul's Evangelical Church of South Wheeling. Members wanted to honor the Sandy Hook victims with a gesture that would benefit young children.

Article Photos

Photos by Sarah Harmon
Elm Grove Elementary School students Kylee Swiger, left, and Ryleigh Gillespie examine the tropical fish in the nature center of their classroom, put in place in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut.

Pastor Mark Zelewicz said he immediately thought of Cheryl Williams, a church member and kindergarten teacher at Elm Grove Elementary, whom he was certain would come up with a beneficial way to use the donation. The gift allowed Williams to expand her classroom's nature center with a large, tropical fish tank with appropriate plants and decor and a second, smaller tank for goldfish observation.

The tropical fish tank is named "Sandy Hook Reef" and has an accompanying plaque featuring the name and date of the tragedy.

"The children have magnifying glasses and books about the different species of animals and plants that we have in our center, and they get to explore and they get to watch the animals as they grow," Williams said.

Williams said the students study the names of the tropical fish every day by projecting a webcam of the tank on the classroom whiteboard, which magnifies the fish to easily identify the species.

"Once we go over the names, the kids come into the science center and find the different species of fish in their vocabulary," Williams said. "They add and subtract with fish. They speak in complete sentences, expanding their language and knowledge of the fish. Eventually they'll develop their writing skills by writing and drawing about the animals and plants in the center. The cross-curricular benefits have been tremendous, and the kids absolutely love it."

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