JENSEN BEACH — They wanted reef balls.
They got reef balls.
The 56 fifth- and sixth-graders put their teachers to shame
Friday by constructing miniature artificial reefs out of
concrete that, unlike the adult version two weeks ago, were
hard and gritty — just like they were supposed to be.
But the kids didn't rub it in.
"Hey, mistakes happen," said 10-year-old John Girer with a
laugh, as his group pulled the fiberglass mold off the reef
ball they started earlier this week.
The students participating in Camp WET at the Environmental
Studies Center were just excited to help create the odd-shaped
concrete reefs that will be sunk in the Indian River Lagoon
for increased fish and oyster habitat.
A group of teachers from various elementary schools in
Martin County tried to create the reefs two weeks ago, but the
so-called "quick drying" cement they used didn't harden.
Their first attempt at reef balls turned out to be reef
Camp teacher John Wakeman said he was impressed with the
first kid-made versions, which will serve as a prototype for
reefs that will be made in classrooms throughout the district
during the next school year.
"These are professional-quality reef balls," said Wakeman,
who was one of the teachers who had trouble. "The kids ran
circles around us, as far as reef balls go."
Making the kids' feat even more impressive, the teachers
also had the help of the vice president of the Bradenton-based
Reef Ball Development Group, which designed the molds and
process for making the underwater reefs.
"People think that kids can't do anything, and then they
see the adults mess up," said Annie Uzar, 11. "I think it's
pretty cool. We're the first kids in Martin County to do
In fact, most of the campers on Friday thought it was
pretty easy to make the reef balls — a process that includes
mixing concrete and pouring it around a boat buoy into a
Scott Sanders, 11, had some advice for the next time adults
want to try their hand at the art of reef ball making.
"We did a better job because we have better teamwork," he
Ten-year-old Tyler Flanagan thought the key to success was
to "make sure nothing breaks and be gentle with it."
Wakeman, along with fellow teacher Kirsi Johnson, plans to
deploy the reef balls with the campers Thursday around the
pier at Indian RiverSide Park.
Reese Walden, 11, said he liked knowing he and his fellow
campers were helping to improve the underwater environment in
"It will be a new home for other fish," he said.
"It takes years for the other reefs to grow back, if
they're hit with a boat or something," he said. "These here,
maybe took us two days."
Of course, it can take a few days more — when adults try