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School of fish

Sunny View Elementary students reach to touch a horseshoe crab during a recent trip to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (photo submitted by Julie Wilson)

Sunny View Elem. uses PCCF grant to visit aquarium
Sunny View Elementary students recently took a field trip like no other that introduced a world unknown to many of them.
Students spent the first six weeks of school learning about sea life to prepare for a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn..
The entire school, grades kindergarten through fifth grade, all 171 of them eligible, chartered buses funded by a $6,600 grant from the Polk County Community Foundation’s Unrestricted Fund.
“My absolute favorite part of the trip was a tunnel called Shark Lagoon,” said fifth grader Cooper Massengill in a letter to the editor (see page 6) “When I got inside there was a sidewalk that moved and I felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean. My group and I went through it a couple of times and every time there was a sawfish against the glass on its belly that looked like he was smiling at me.”
In preparation, students built the Sunny View Sea at the school by turning a hallway into an ocean tunnel like the one they encountered at the aquarium.
“It’s amazing what the students have done, and the teachers as well,” said Sunny View teacher Holly Owens during the Polk County School Board meeting on Oct. 10. “This trip has just been an eye opener – we have touched the ocean through science, math, language arts….”
Students learned about many aquatic creatures, including turtles, fish, sharks, penguins, jellyfish, crabs, sea horses and stingrays. They also learned many details about sea life, such as that the average length of a blue whale is 98 feet and the average length of a bottlenose dolphin is 9 feet.
“The piranhas did not look very scary, but they had spiky teeth,” said second-grader Carley Lawter. “I also had fun at the Shark Lagoon. I was surprised they didn’t eat the little fish. Thanks to the Polk County Community Foundation for helping me learn about fish.”
The grant application was written by first-grade teacher Genie Phipps, second-grade teacher Julie Wilson and principal Kevin Weis.
“Sunny View School has 71 percent of our students receiving free and reduced lunch,” said the grant application. “Twenty-six percent of our students are served by our Title One program and 17 percent are served in the Exceptional Children’s Program. In light of our economic climate and the high percentage of our students on free and reduced lunch, our staff feels that the majority of our students would not get the opportunity to go to an aquarium in the near future.”
The principal, teachers, staff and parents took the students for the day-long trip, with the school PTO providing snacks.
“We asked a lot of our students had they ever been to an ocean or the beach and the majority of them had not,” said Wilson. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students here.”

Sunny View Elementary students watch a program at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. (photo submitted by Julie Wilson)