PANAMA CITY — Gifted high school students from Gulf and Franklin counties are spending time at Gulf Coast State College working on a potential wetland project for ZooWorld.
Linda Fitzhugh, biology professor, said application is the focus.
“This is real world problem solving and that’s what they’re going to have to do at some point, when they have jobs,” Fitzhugh said. “They’re being encouraged to do a lot of these STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities, so a lot of these kids might become our future engineers and biologists. So, we wanted a real world STEM experiment.”
Antonio Adessi, coordinator of engineering technology at GCSC, said he hopes the project crosses subject matter lines for the students.
“As members of our future community, it’s a matter of building that awareness at the citizen level, one by one,” Adessi said. “We want to get them engaged in something that is school related but is also everyday life.”
Overall, the project will focus on water filtration so the zoo can reuse water for cleaning cages and watering plants. The students’ first class covered water quality, how to test for it and how to improve it. The second class, held Wednesday, looked at soil.
The students learned the elements of soil, how it holds water and different types of soil protection methods. The next class will look at plants — how to use them appropriately to help stop erosion and increase the water filtration.
Maura Mahan, a 15-year-old Port St. Joe High School sophomore, said being raised by a scientist put the desire to learn in her blood.
“I’m learning how to design wetlands,” Mahan said. “I’m planning on being a veterinarian and that would fall under a lot of categories here. I’m learning quite a bit.”
Fitzhugh said she hopes to have the wetland design done in April or May; if the design is implemented, she hopes to have the students come back on work on the physical project as well.