Students at Thurston Middle School are growing kelp in their classroom for extra credit.
The program in Richard Selin’s sixth-grade class is part of a kelp restoration project, funded by the Laguna Ocean Foundation.
The students grow the kelp on unglazed ceramic tiles in a plastic tub of water, which is circulated with a heater and a bubble machine.
Once the kelp is tall enough, it is transplanted into Laguna Beach coastal waters, where it anchors onto offshore rocks off the coast.
According to the president of the Laguna Ocean Foundation, Louise Thornton, the two-year program started as a suggestion from one of the foundation’s board members.
“One of our board members, Scott Ferguson, was interested in looking for ways to get active programs in the school system," Thornton said. “So we looked into it, and we found a great program to get the kids involved."
Thornton said that the program is a great way to educate children about taking proper care of the ocean. The program has been implemented in 17 other schools in Orange County.
Thornton said she doesn’t see any reason to discontinue the program, because the sixth-graders seemed very interested in growing the kelp.
“We’re currently evaluating the program, and so far we don’t see any problems," Thornton said. “It’s a good way to get kids to understand the environment and what stresses and affects the wildlife there."
The kelp restoration program is directed by Nancy Caruso, a marine biologist who has been working on restoring the giant kelp off the shore of Laguna Beach since 2002.