Students at St. Stanislaus are taking class outside and to the water with oyster farming, an elective offered at the high school.

Students at St. Stanislaus are taking class outside and to the water with oyster farming, an elective offered at the high school.

The hope is they walk away with valuable knowledge about what is in their own backyard and a sense of responsibility to care for it.

It doesn’t look like your typical classroom, but don’t be fooled. There is learning happening on the pier. These St. Stanislaus seniors studying marine biology are gardening oysters. Director of the Marine Science program Letha Boudreaux said, “What you just saw them do was check our oyster gardens and ecosystem baskets. We’ve partnered with the state of Mississippi for the past five years on a restoration project for oysters in Mississippi specifically. Our job as oyster gardeners is to check the baskets regularly, remove predators, like what you saw them do.”

On a weekly basis, Boudreaux and her students tend to the oysters. Every year, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources lends St. Stanislaus hundreds of baby oysters to grow and study.

Boudreaux says due to this year’s low salinity from fresh water coming into the Sound, the number of oysters surviving and growing decreased dramatically from the hundreds in years prior.

What begins as a single shell is supposed to grow into clusters, but even these circumstances don’t take away from the learning experience. “Oysters play a huge role in our ecosystem. Number one they’re important to the culture in South Mississippi and the history of this state, but as a living thing, they filter our water. They create food sources for other organisms including us. They also play a role in shoreline stabilization, preventing erosion from all the storms and natural disasters. They’re incredibly valuable organisms to have in our ecosystem and we want to make sure they’re still here.”

Student Jackson Reid says what they’re doing is fascinating and fun. “This class offers a lot of freedom in what you’re doing. It’s just really enjoyable. You’re learning but you’re enjoying what you’re learning.”

The grown oysters are returned to the state at the end of the school year.

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