If you enter room 727 after school, you are liable to see students hard at work, their hands submerged in fish tanks with about twenty species of corals, including the Tonga Blue Mushroom, African Red, Purple Mushroom and leather corals. Sea snails, star fish, copperband butterflyfish and other colorful marine organisms linger around them, at home in their man-made environment.
Stuyvesant’s Coral Reef Club maintain these organisms by diligently feeding them, cleaning the tanks, adding supplements to the water and testing it to maintain a stable environment in which the organisms can survive.
However, the club wants to expand its activity out of the classroom and have a greater impact on global coral-preservation efforts. It is currently in the running to win a 5,000 dollar grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project.
“We have done everything by ourselves, so it would be nice to have outside funding,” biology teacher and Coral Reef Club advisor Stephen McClellan said. The corals and marine organisms were donated over the past several years by people around New York City, and McClellan covered all additional expenses.
The project, which is sponsored by PepsiCo, awards grants to individuals, small groups, companies and organizations “with ideas that will have a positive impact,” according to the Pepsi Refresh Project Web site. It was started in January 2010 after the company decided not to advertise in the Super Bowl XLIV and instead pursue a new form of marketing, according to The New York Times article “In New Campaign, Pepsi Invites Public to Do Good,” published on Sunday, January 31, 2010.
Every month, PepsiCo accepts up to 1,000 applications in one of six categories: Planet, Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, Neighborhoods and Education. The following month, candidates solicit as many votes as possible in their bid for a 5,000, 25,000, 50,000 or 250,000-dollar grant. Ten awardees will be picked per grant amount with the exception of the largest amount, for which two awardees will be picked per month.
The Coral Reef Club applied for a 5,000 grant in The Planet category in December with the intention to raise awareness for coral destruction, ship corals to Indonesia—where corals have been dying off due to environmental pressures—and supply corrals to researchers.
Their idea to contribute corals to scientific studies was inspired by the work of Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist Katrina Koon (’10), whose project showed that the Kenya Tree coral exhibits anticancer and antibacterial properties.
Although junior and Coral Reef Club President Judy Pu admits that their goals are ambitious and not entirely realistic, they hope that the grant will help them grow even more corals and make members of Stuyvesant more aware of their existence. “Corals play a central role in the oceans since they support quite a number of organisms,” she said. “Students and many teachers don’t know that they have this resource. The tanks offer a view into a habitat that most people would not see regularly.”
As of Sunday, January 16, the club’s proposal was 113th out of 1,133. People can vote for the club on the PepsiCo Web site or by sending a text message to PepsiCo by Monday, January 31.
“The grant is important not just for the club, but also to Stuyvesant,” Pu said. “It’s a chance for a school based club to make a real world impact.”
To vote for the Coral Reef Club, go to www.refresheverything.com/coralreefclub