Students in Cutler Bay Academy’s COAST program recently completed a special project that allowed them to combine the normally separate subjects of marine science, art and ecology. The unique encounter was arranged by Marshall Ruffo, COAST lead teacher at the school.
“They were introduced to the world of marine art and miniature fish mounts when they were visited by marine life artist Carey Chen, and the Billfish Foundation director of science, Peter Chaibongsai,” Ruffo said. “Carey Chen proceeded to tell the students how he developed his ability to turn small sketches into masterful pieces of artwork. He conveyed the idea that even a small talent can be used in many ways and may be much larger than ever imagined.
“He told stories of fishing adventures and how he travels around the globe in search of marine life. Being an avid fisherman, he was naturally drawn to marine life of which he has spent most of his time painting.”
Ruffo explained that a generous donation of mini fish mounts from King Sailfish Mounts made it possible for the students to explore their creativity while learning about billfish. And the visiting guests found the students even more interested than expected by the topic.
“Students engaged in a back and forth discussion with Chen and Chaibongsai about different artistic techniques and marine conservation issues,” Ruffo said. “The planned short presentation turned into three hours of learning about everything thing from local fish stocks to worldwide fish populations, including discussions about fish tagging and tracking of highly migratory species.”
The presentation itself took place on Apr. 15, but in the days following the students continued work on their project, researching and designing their color schemes for the miniature fish mounts they were painting.
“Students were able to get as creative as they wanted when painting their fish,” Ruffo said. “Some stayed traditional, while others definitely went to the abstract with their ideas.
The students went through the priming, painting and varnishing of the fish during their marine science classes. In the end, the fish were displayed at school and will be taken home by the students at the end of the school year.” The students said they enjoyed the project and especially the visit by artist Carey Chen.
“I followed him before so I was thankful to get to meet him,” said student Cesar Martinez. “He gave out great advice about art and fishing.”
Melissa Quiros said, “He inspired me to be creative with my fish project.” That view was shared by student Jaqueline Casco.
“I enjoyed the way Mr. Chen described his artistic style and how he is inspired by his fishing adventures,” she said.
Ruffo said that he expects future collaborations between Cutler Bay Academy and the Billfish Foundation as both groups continue to promote marine education and conservation.
COAST stands for Cutler Bay Ocean Academy of Science and Technology, and is designed to provide students with essential aspects of marine and environmental education in South Florida.
For more information about the school, which is located at 8601 SW 212 St. in Cutler Bay, visit bayacademy.org .