By Candace Kelley
The rabbit named Snowball is a new dad — and students at Bayonne High School can get up close and personal to see how he raises his children in the BioDome. The BioDome is a room filled with more than 600 organisms from 200 different species, from chinchillas to lizards. It’s all part of the school’s new STEM Academy for science, technology, engineering and math.
“Most of our tanks are not just animals that we put in a tank with food. They are ecosystems,” said BioDome Curator Alex Kuziola.
Before the Biodome was built, administrators asked two of the school’s biology teachers how they could take teaching science to a new level.
“Immerse them in biology. Not just teach them the biology, but immerse them in the biology,” Kuziola said.
So they asked for — and received — this space, thanks to a $50,000 donation from CarePoint Health. By working with the animals, students are exploring biological diversity, treating sick animals and learning about evolution.
“Looking at how the snakes are lizards are so closely related, or even how the bunnies and chinchillas are that closely related,” said BioDome Curator Sandra Stamos.
“If a predator were to come and get her she could detach her tail and get away,” Bayonne High School student Marc Donelan explained about a gecko.
The curators of this BioDome call this a living laboratory and say that when the students get to see the animals up close and personal, their whole world opens up.
And their work has turned into wins.
“We had our Hudson County Science Fair and were able to get a gold medal in the category of animals,” said Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan.
“I did a science fair project on the different respiration rates and heart rates of gerbils,” said student Cisco Espinosa.
The curators say they are making history as the first school in the state to have a STEM program that allows students to explore more than engineering, technology and math.
“We are one of the first districts to bring in a biology component to it,” Kuziola said.
“We admire our teachers for the great work that they have done,” Espinosa said.
And students are being admired by the teachers for the work they have done in the program.