I am working on an aquaculture farm in northern Ohio. We raise and harvest fish (largemouth bass and perch), shrimp, crayfish, minnows, and snails. Most of the time we are out in lakes gathering or “seining” crayfish. Seining just means to catch fish/crayfish with large multi-person nets. We have a small net (about 10 ft long) that is used with two people to catch crayfish in pretty shallow water. We sometimes drain a lake quite low and seine to get everything out of it. Another job I have is to take care of the shrimp. I feed the shrimp, test the shrimp tank water quality, back-flush the bio filters (substrate filters), and make sure the tanks stay at proper water level and temperature.
I talked to my boss and we decided that science and experimentation were very important in my co-op. I make sure to do things like check the water’s pH, alkalinity, nitrate and nitrite levels, etc, and take average measurements of the shrimp’s mass. We feed the shrimp about 10% of their body weight, so some calculations are required in finding the average mass; I do work like that as well. I enjoy the more science related parts of the job and try to find the science behind everything. My boss and I often talk about chemicals used on the farm or the abundant wildlife around us. I have learned a lot about the birds, trees, turtles, frogs, fish, and many other animals that can be found on the property. As I said, to run an aquaculture farm well, you really need to have a strong foundation in all sciences.
I really wish more colleges would consider becoming co-operative education schools. I have learned so many useful skills and useful, practical information that I can apply to many areas of my life. Science is science. No matter what you learn you can apply it to something you work with. I am able to find real life examples of things I have only seen or read about in textbooks, and I think that’s pretty awesome. Whether it be physics, chemistry, or biology, I could give you an example from the farm. I think education has to be a balance between studying information from books, lectures, and other sources such as the internet and videos, and actually seeing or doing something in real life that applies that gained knowledge. Reading a book about crayfish isn’t going to teach you what a peeler feels like, or how to pick one out of a tub of hardshells. If you would read that their shell has more give than a hardshell, that is in no way comparable to the feeling of the crunchy little exoskeletons peelers are about to shed. Nothing beats hands-on education. When you experience something your brain not only remembers what it looked like, but also what it felt like, sounded like, smelled like, and so on. I am extremely happy that Antioch is a cooperative education school because in the current job market, having hands-on experience paired with a formal education is always going to beat having just a formal education. I’m proud to go to a school that understands the importance of experience and education.
In relation to the college’s liberal arts outcomes, I feel that I have been able to offer critical reflections on readings and my work place. I think it is very beneficial to have to write how you feel about what you are going through; you may know how you feel about things, but it is much different to actually formulate your words into concise sentences. I have been thinking about all of these things for weeks… but having to write down my thoughts has helped me a great deal in knowing how I truly feel about things, and how I would talk about my co-op to other people. Through writing these co-op reflections, I am, in a way, deciding what I want to tell people about my co-op, and how I truly feel about it. I think the writing process during any new experience is very valuable indeed.
Our assignments aren’t weekly, but I would agree that they are very beneficial. I hope that through these writing assignments we will be forced to think more deeply about how we feel about our experiences on co-op; and that through the remembrance and evaluation of our thoughts, we can take more away from the experiences to in-turn apply to our lives.