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Michelle Mitnitsky

Grow mangroves and transplant them in a location with an ecosystem devastated by Hurricane Ian

2023 STEM Scholar
Sanibel, FL The Sanibel School

Michelle’s Big Idea: 

Students will grow mangroves during the school year and plant them at the end of the year in a location on Sanibel – an area ecologically devastated by Hurricane Ian.  Students will participate in lessons about weathering, erosion, rocks and soil, weather and climate as well as the human impact on mangroves.  Students will collect mangrove propagules from areas around the island and replant them and perform experiments on them; by growing them in different mediums, substrates, salt concentrations and nutrients.  Algal blooms with fertilizers will be introduced and outcomes will be measured. Students will record data, and take observations of their mangroves throughout the year. This is a priority for our school and students because it will support not only the island’s healing but will support student healing by revealing the power they have in caring for their home environment.  Students and their families have lost their homes and belongings but rebuilding will build resilience.

Outcomes include:

  • Defining a problem from the sixth grade curriculum, using appropriate reference materials to support scientific understanding, planning and carrying out scientific investigation of various types, such as systematic observations or experiments, identifying variables, collecting and organizing data, interpreting data in charts, tables, and graphics, analyzing information, making predictions, and defending conclusions;
  • Identifying the role of models in the context of the sixth grade science benchmarks;
  • Differentiating and showing interactions among the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere;
  • Describing and giving examples of ways in which Earth’s surface is built up and torn down by physical and chemical weathering, erosion, and deposition.
  • Identifying the impact that humans have on Earth, such as deforestation, urbanization, desertification, erosion, air and water quality, and changing the flow of water.

Interesting Fact: 

Michelle’s school abuts Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and classrooms have use of the refuge.

In her own words: “I have been teaching for over 20 years in different parts of the country and have settled down in sunny, warm Florida. I am the only Middle School Science Teacher as we are a small public school.”