|Jensen Beach· They wanted reef balls, but at first they got
After a second, more successful effort last
week, teachers at the Environmental Studies Center of Martin County
schools got the hang of it.
Reef balls are
concrete reefs in the shape of hole-ridden, hollow domes.
Paid for by Martin County's artificial reef program,
teachers and scientists met last week at the center to learn how to
build the balls, which will be deployed in two areas of the Indian
River Lagoon this summer.
On Wednesday morning, they
discovered the "quick-drying" concrete they used had turned into a
soupy mess overnight.
"We popped the molds, and they kind of
collapsed," teacher John Wakeman said. "It looked soupy."
But the group didn't give up.
A second attempt --
this time mixing their own concrete -- produced more satisfying
So a competition is on.
participating in the environmental camps at the Environmental
Studies Center and visiting the Florida Oceanographic Society's
coastal center on Hutchinson Island in Stuart this summer will get a
chance to prove that children can do it better than adults the first
"I think the children can do this and be real
excited about it," said Peg Clifford, a third-grade teacher at Palm
City Elementary School who plans to have her students build the reef
balls and learn about marine life next year.
project will serve two purposes, said Kathy FitzPatrick, Martin
County coastal engineer.
"It's a combination restoration and
education project," she said. "You learn about the environment and
why they work, and you make them and then deploy them. They'll be
monitoring to see what's happening, too."
Dozens of reef
balls, which will be sunk near the pier at Indian RiverSide Park and
along the shores behind the Florida Oceanographic Society, will be
the first artificial reefs in the lagoon.
reef-ball design has been used in Lake Okeechobee, offshore in Palm
Beach County and as far away as New Zealand, said Larry Beggs, vice
president of the Bradenton-based Reef Ball Development Group.
To build the reef balls, the adults broke into teams and
assembled crater-shaped fiberglass molds. They threw in a little
sand -- to add crustacean-attracting texture -- then sprayed the
mold with sugar water to stop the concrete from sticking.
Then they inserted a boat buoy the size of a basketball into
the mold, surrounded it with little inflatable balls and poured in
The end result should have been domes with holes
where the balls had been, but the concrete initially used was
premixed and quick-drying and didn't live up to its billing.
But the batch made Wednesday turned out solid and ready for
"We know not to use that kind of concrete,"
FitzPatrick said. "We learned all the things that can go
Suzanne Wentley can be reached at