Christian Curriculum

Students share designs on the high seas with renowned explorer – Catholic Philly

Students at an Archdiocesan School in Chester County explore the depths of science and ecological education, with the help of a renowned oceanographer.

The fifth-grade class at St. Maximilian Kolbe School in West Chester shared their models of underwater cities during a video call on May 21 with Fabien Cousteau, an internationally renowned marine explorer and conservationist .

Cousteau himself was born with salt water in his blood. As the grandson of famous French naval officer and ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau – whose documentaries have revealed underwater life to generations of viewers – he learned to dive on his fourth birthday. Cousteau continued his family’s legacy with several documentaries, and even spent 31 days living and working at the Aquarius Underwater Marine Laboratory in Florida.

In 2016, he founded the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC), which engages local communities around the world in marine restoration, conservation and research. Launched last July, the centre’s flagship project, Proteus, is developing as an international space station located underwater.

This particular effort intrigued Peg Baran, a fifth-grade teacher from St. Maximilian, who contacted FCOLC last August to get a Proteus poster for her class. For the organization’s acting director, Eleanor Angone, the simple request awoke memories.

“I am a former educator of a Catholic school,” Angone said. “When I saw that I thought, she touches me to the point where I have to do something more for this woman.”

Oceanographer Fabien Cousteau met via Zoom with fifth grade students from St. Maximilian Kolbe School in West Chester to discuss models of underwater cities on May 21. (Joe Pugliese / Courtesy of Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center)

Angone and her colleagues set up a meeting between Cousteau and the students of St. Maximilian, who spent the 2020-21 academic year designing and redesigning – amid the COVID pandemic, nothing less – their own models of underwater cities as part of the school’s STEAM. (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).

Cousteau himself was “quite impressed” with the results, which he said addressed the prospect of living below sea level “in a creative and innovative way.”

“I look forward to sharing this with our engineers for Proteus, who will no doubt appreciate the outlook,” he added. “Each model has merit in its approach and would provide a great basis for tackling some of the challenges of the real world. “

The students’ efforts offered “hope for future generations to do better than us,” said Cousteau, whose organization is committed to “creating positive change in the world” to counter dire ecological trends.

Real hope is at the heart of St. Maximilian’s program, said director Monica Malseed.

“We give our children a real understanding that they are the voice of Christ, the voice of God in this world,” she said. “God made us a little less than the angels to rule the planet, and this project has given the children a real understanding that this is our world, and that we are truly caregivers and stewards.”

Grade 5 students from St. Maximilian Kolbe School in West Chester met with ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau via Zoom on May 21. (Photo courtesy of St. Maximilian School)

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