October 26, 2000
Mandarin News & St. Johns River Pilot

It may look like a jack-o-lantern but it's really a reef ball
made by Mandarin High school students.  The reef balls
are dropped into the ocean to make homes for marine life.

MHS students making more reef balls


    Almost 300 yards of concrete oozed into fiberglass molds last
week while close to 90 Mandarin teens stood by and watched.
The watchers and helpers were students from Alex Water's Ma-
rine Science class, and the concrete was used to make reef balls.

    "This was our first pour of the year," Waters said. "We hope to do six pours this year. We completed three last year before participating in the Reef Ball Drop last Spring."

    Reef-balls, which are large concrete structures that resemble huge chunks of Swiss cheese, are used to help the marine environment by creating artificial reefs.

    These reefs provide homes to an array of sea life, and the Reef Ball Project, an award winning effort by Mandarin High School, continues to grow and gain participation from many local companies.

    John Haines, plant manager for Tarmac Concrete, and Jim Cook, the company's president, liked what MHS was doing, and felt that such a positive endeavor needed assistance. That's how they got involved donating concrete. The Jensen Company became involved when a Mustang student, Steve Jensen, told his father what the Marine Science students were up to.

    "The reef balls recently poured are heavy weights," Waters explained. "The two small reef balls weigh about 500 pounds each. The medium ones weigh about 2,000 pounds each, and the big reef balls weigh 4,000 pounds."

    How do the students move such heavy objects? Waters explained. "First we set the forms up on their base," he said. "Then the concrete trucks arrive and pour the concrete into the mold. When the concrete dries we simply take the mold off and use a front end loader provided by Jensen to move the reef balls to wherever they're to be stored. We have three reef balls out in display in front of the high school. We're thinking that might be a good place to store the new ones until they can be deployed."

    Once deployment plans are made, another local company, Sunbelt Transportation, moves the giant structures. "We've been unbelievably fortunate to have assistance and support from so many people," Waters said.

    Community involvement is part of what earned Waters and the Marine Science students a Science Award last year.

    Waters has made several presentations to groups including Sea World in Orlando. Waters has explained the project members of the NAS Jacksonville Power Squadron, and students at Loretto and Crown Point Elementary schools.

    "I enjoy telling people what we're doing at Mandarin High," Waters said. "I'm always open to sharing news about this exciting project."