Connecting kids to nature through the Bioma Project

Young students react while seeing the creatures that will inhabit the tank in their classroom as part of the Bioma Project. Courtesy photo.

By The Bioma Project

For many students, environmental education consists of a single field trip per year or a documentary in class. The Bioma Project, a student-led nonprofit organization based out of Clarksville, Md., is working to bring nature instruction to students throughout the day and at a minimal cost.

The Bioma Project team recently visited Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia, Md., to present an experimental education model to more than 50 students and their teachers.

The team is composed of youth members from the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited inspired by the chapter’s wildly successful Trout in the Classroom program.

Founder of the Bioma Project, Bill Tong, came up with the idea while in middle school back in 2014. They are now in high school, but middle school students remain involved in the club.

Bill Tong, founder and CEO of the Bioma Project, with COO Omar Niazi. Courtesy photo.

The model uses less space and requires fewer resources but contains more biodiversity. An aquarium is stocked with 12 species of native plants and animals. Also included is a special set of curriculum material designed to facilitate hands-on experiential learning.

“When the students contacted me about putting an aquarium in my classroom that would have native species from a local stream, I was thrilled to say yes,” said Michaeline Van Reenan, a fifth-grade teacher at Hanover Hills Elementary. “My students love having the aquarium in the classroom and being responsible to help to take care of it”.

The program is designed for students to independently develop ideas with guidance from teachers. Throughout the year, the students make observations on the tank and create their own hypothesis and research; just like actual scientists. The program spans fall to spring to ensure the students witness the life cycles of the species in the tank, culminating in a fish release in a local stream at the end of the year, similar to Trout in the Classroom.

The Bioma Project was presented the Tawes Award by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for aquatic conservation in 2015. The project is now found in 29 elementary schools in Maryland and Washington, D.C.


Add Content