By AMY HORTON
News Staff Writer
Two busloads of growth-minded city
slickers rolled onto St. Simons Island Tuesday
dragging a dozen prefabricated housing units in their
Their goal wasn't to meet the luxury
seaside living needs of butchers, bakers or
candlestick makers. It was to provide underwater digs
for sea trout, crabs, starfish and other critters.
The erstwhile builders came in the
form of about 75 fifth graders enrolled at the Walker
School in Marietta. Their science/community service
project this year was to build "reef balls"
for use at an existing artificial reef site off the
If they work as intended, the reef
balls will be a tremendous help for the coast,
according to student Jeremy Walker.
Sounding as though his childhood
enthusiasm for great inventions was battling the
new-found skepticism of a scientist searching for a
cure, Jeremy offered this explanation of the function
of a reef ball: "They hope things that make reefs
will attach on and make bigger reefs."
Reef balls are hollow concrete domes
shot through with holes. When placed under water, they
promote the formation of coral communities that attach
to the surface of the ball and attract fish and other
creatures in search of food and hiding places on the
The individual units come in varying
sizes, heights and thicknesses, and weigh anywhere
from six to 90 pounds. Most of the weight is within
one foot of the bottom outside edge, so they're less
likely to shift with currents and the upheaval of
A global organization called the
Reef Ball Foundation provides grants for obtaining
Reef Ball molds for anyone interested in creating units for new
or existing artificial reefs. This is the first time
they've been used in the construction of artificial
reefs off the Georgia coast.
Walker School teacher Lorraine
Brooks found out about the coalition from a friend and
thought the project would provide valuable lessons for
her students on many fronts.
"Every year, we look at
something we can do with the class to teach civic and
ecological responsibility," Ms. Brooks said.
"This is not only important for nature and
ecology, but I know it has an economic importance for
people on the coast."
It took her students an intense two
days to craft the reef ball contraptions out of
concrete mixed in a wheelbarrow and poured into
fiberglass forms provided by the coalition.
They boarded two buses at 6 a.m. to
follow their creations to the coast. Once here, they
boarded two boats and drifted into ringside seats to
watch the Georgia Department of Natural Resources
deploy the reef balls at an existing reef site in Jove
Creek, just off the Intracoastal Waterway across from
Such educational field trips to the
coast are annual events for her students, Ms. Brooks
said, and honors that all upcoming fifth graders dream
of. Even after they've achieved the exalted status of
high schoolers, students remember their magical trips
to the coast.
"We look forward to this every
year," she said. "This is an unbelievable