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Would You Rather: “Wish Upon a Star? Carry Moonbeams Home in a Jar? Be Better Off Than You Are? …Or, Would You Rather…” Design & Assemble Aquatic Ecosystems (for an entire school year)?

9 Feb Photo by Robert Jakus

The title of this post is intended to convey an idealized spirit of free and engaged learning. The popular song upon which this post title is based is: Swinging on a Star.” According to Wikipedia, this song “is an American pop standard with music composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke.[1] It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song that year,[1][2] and has been recorded by numerous artists since then. In 2004, it finished at No. 37 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.”

As it relates to the book/curriculum, Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, the title of this post invites teachers and learners to actively exercise their own choice, voice and Joyfullness in pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Every word in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is intended to encourage students to engage in a uniquely personal sequence of learning projects. The educational jargon might call this “agency.”

According to his Indiegogo fundraising event in 2016, Bob, the author, is a knowledgeable and caring educator – recently retired; An “old-school” character in an ever-accelerating society; he appreciates natural and universal principles of our common “human condition.” He admires classical thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Euclid, Archimedes, Epicurus and Edu-Thinkers like Dewey and Escalante. Bob has long held hopeful expectations for a more peaceful and healthy society.

Bob continues to have an abiding interest in further sharing his Edu-Vision thru intensive weeklong ‘Beyond the Classroom Aquarium’ Professional Development workshops (as reflected in his previously unsuccessful Indiegogo curriculum PD campaign).

If this post puts a song in your heart then it has been of some great value. Thank you for visiting.


Football at Farragut High School, Chicago, IL Between 1954 and 1964: A Scrapbook Lovingly Designed by Coach Jakus’ wife :-)

17 Jun

AND NOW, for something way-way, … Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, and almost as much fun…

Please click on the colorful & enlarged text below to be taken to a page that will let you download a pdf version of the 130 slides in the FHS Football Scrapbook:

FHS FootBall ScrapBook 1954 1964 D

nThe most recently updated PDF ‘FHS Football Scrapbook 1954-1964 D’ link (as of 7/17/2021 is accessed above). It contains 130 slides.

I recently updated some dusty scrapbook pages that my mother compiled (about my dad, Mindo Jakus). This Farragut HS scrapbook presents a lot of information about the Chicago public high school football program, (by reviewing the many exciting details of Farragut’s program) for years from 1954 through 1964 (the years of my father’s tenure as coach there). Information from the the 1965 season is also presented to underscore the kind of athletic program he was instrumental in creating; and to celebrate another amazing class of athletes who participted in the FHS footbal program.

Another scrapbook update is in the near future because I was recently contacted by Dennis Harris who played the position of right guard on the history making 1956/57 Farragut Admirals football squads. Among other things Dennis wrote: “I was 5’5/135 lbs. I have no idea what your father saw in me. It made me want to prove something. My number in 56’ was 94. In 57’ it was 34.” Thank you Dennis for reaching out.

Dennis sent me a few photos to share and many words to describe how much of an impact coach Jakus had upon young Dennis’ life and career!


As young kids (not even close to high school age), my brother and I got to experience much of this up close; attending many games, travelling on the (often ROCKIN’) team bus – filled with boisterous high school athletes – to & from games, visiting the locker room before, during (half-time) and after games, sitting “on the bench” with the team during the game if not getting a hot dog or peanuts at the concession stand, etc. To me, and I believe to many others who experienced it personally – these formative high school years were times of excitement, hope, dignity and integrity – much less about winning than about, fun, fairness, playfullness, teamwork, cooperation, sharing responsibility, communication and finally – of course – victory. I know these experiences deeply impacted my own world view for the rest of my life.

Although this is a posthumous tribute for both parents I am glad to have finally been able to share my mom’s (a 1940’s school teacher image of her appears on slide 130) FHS scrapbook with the worldwide FHS community (past, present & future) for Father’s Day 2020. To me this this experience is kind of jolting when I try to imagine all the energy and hope this slide show captures and shares.

The 130 slide Powerpoint presentation from which this pdf file was saved is about 350MB in size. I compressed the file. Now, you can view all 129 slides in the compressed version by downloading an 18.3 MB PDF file from this WordPress account.

By the way, there seem to be older 128 and 129 slide version of this powerpoint in circulation. It seems my efforts to delete earlier released versions are not entirely successful. As I learn more about posting files online, I will work on making the updated version open automatically in another window – so you would be able to view it without downloading it –  if/when I figure this out – if it is possible, etc.

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A List of Questions About Beyond the Classroom Aquarium (for example: Why does it not cost less? Why select it over curricula produced by major publishing houses? Why use it when student success would require extensive effort, time, work and support? Why use this curriculum in view of the financial expenses it requires? and more)

20 Apr

Starting with…

        Question NUMBER TEN-A;

10A. Why, Aside from:

  • Receiving 60% royalty on all monies beyond the minimum $41.90 sale price that covers Kindle’s printing cost ($25.14) and other fees ($16.76)? As for example the price for this book is currently set at $58.56 I may expect to receive a royalty of $10.00. ….AND;
  • After years of committing portions of my own personal teaching salary funds to procure and install classroom aquatic ecosystem materials, equipment and livestock, AND;
  • Committing further personal monies associated with attendance at more than a dozen classes, professional conferences and professional development workshops to explore and develop Beyond the Classroom Aquarium? curriculum related ideas, AND;
  • Dispensing additional funds associated with royalty payments to other publishers who granted premission to use portions of their content in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, AND;
  • Considering the many intangible costs associated with years of reading, studying, photocopying, etc. related to the curriculum, AND;
  • Years (20+) spent thinking, writing, and revising conceptual designs of the Beyond the Classroom Aquarium curriculum and the persistence to complete it; Why then

        … does this book not cost less?

Moving right along to:

          Question Number 10-B

10B. If

  • a publishing company did not publish it (Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is self-published and print on demand) …and
  • my school district’s curriculum committee did not authorize adoption of it,

Why should I give it the time of day? After all, a lot of experts and top dollar educational corporations have developed and endorsed a plethora of reviewed and highly rated curricular materials.

     … Question Number NINE

9. The level of knowledge and skill required of the lead teacher in this project based curriculum is uncommonly extreme. Getting students to be successful with this curriculum would require extensive effort, time, work and support. No thanks (Please share your reaction to this comment).

    … Question Number EIGHT.

8. It would cost way too much to implement the projects in this curriculum at my school (a small fortune). Even though it may well be worth it, where do startup funds to implement this curriculum come from? Why DIY so many systems and components when many high quality components can be purchased (plug and play). Cutting corners and finding novel ways to design and produce system components is just not how I view my role as an educator (Please share your reaction to this comment).

    … Question Number SEVEN.

7. Projects in this curriculum are designed to address modern day math standards, next generation science standards, and standards relating to integration of technology, engineering and the arts into learning activities. This kind of integration may make daily work with students more complicated than some educators might prefer (Please share your reaction to this comment).

      … Question Number SIX.

6.  The man who wrote this curriculum has put a lot of passion into it. Somehow he devised a way to unify all of these aquatic ecosystem themed projects into a logical curricular sequence. In addition to being a veteran educator (of more than 35 years), he went to great lengths to ensure this work would address a range of issuses of interest in numerous professional aquatic ecosystem fields of study and work. Obsessive/compulsive? Maybe he should have just joined a rock band instead? (Please share your reaction to this comment).

     … Question Number FIVE.

5. How can modern day persons perform these projects via digital learning or while being home schooled? These conditions make implementation of such a project based curriculum even more difficult. (Please share your reaction to this comment).

     … Question Number FOUR.

4. I think students would never buy-in to a yearlong project based, aquatic ecosystem themed structuted sequence of multidisciplinary learning activities. They have such limited attention spans and get bored so easily….  What do you think? (Please share your reaction to this comment).

    … Question Number THREE.

3. What examples of application of knowlegde and skill could be presented from students who have participated in this sequence of projects – in science, technology, engineering, art, and math? The author seems to think that learning about aquatic ecosystem is an enriching vehicle for guiding students to learn math & more (and apply it in real world contexts). (Please share your reaction to this comment).

     … Question Number TWO.

2. What might a classroom look like after a full school year of successful project participation in all 14 projects and related assessment activities has occurred? Could such a learning space serve as a demonstration  model and professional development learning space? (Please share your reaction to this comment).

     … And finally, Last but not least,

         Question Number ONE.

1. Has this author put together a Beyond the Classroom Aquarium professional development workshop for interested educators; a workshop that could be held in an operational beyond the classroom aquatic ecosystem learning space? Would it be FREE? (Please share your reaction to this comment).

I believe you can find answers to these questions and many others in the book. I will be happy to read your own comment about any of the questions on this list or other relevant concern(s) even if you have not yet read or used this curriculum. In particular, I am deeply interested in what you believe a fair price for this book might be. What do you think is a reasonable expectation for a royalty of this book? Although I did not write this book to make money I did hope I might recover expenses in the process of sharing this amazong curriculum.

Thank you.

Beyond the Classroom Aquarium [A Non-Fiction Title for STEM Educators]

27 Jan

Beyond the Classroom Aquarium learning projects have been designed for use by all learners!

As I observe the field of educational analysis evolve, one trend that interests me is that more pedagogists are becoming proponents of ‘educational craftsmanship’ by which every educator may develop strategies to more effectively apply his or her personal voice/vision during day to day work with students and also obtain more personally relevant professional development. Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is my contribution in support the development of autonomous pedagogical craftsmanship. It offers much more than just another educational twist on the recent trend in aquaculture curricula. 

Beyond the Classroom Aquarium presents a curricular sequence of 14 project based, STEM-Oriented aquatic ecosystem themed learning activities students will love. Some use it as a curriculum resource; others as a ‘take action now’ project guide. Many educators who use it with their own students or participate in a related workshop/class also find that they are being guided to refine & implement their own personalized educational voice/vision.

In addition to being educationally valuable, Beyond the Classroom Aquarium projects are affordably scalable. A plethora of suggestions to help budget challenged educators make affordable project modifications are provided throughout the book. 

As you review information provided here, please try to imagine scaling and implementing one or more Beyond the Classroom Aquarium project for your students – in your learning space.

“Many educators will find practical value in this innovatively hybridized curriculum….”
“I’m not familiar with another project based, aquatic ecosys-STEM themed curriculum  that is as comprehensive.”
                                                  “I am impressed….”
The above remarks were expressed by #NMEA15 conference (National Marine Educators Association) attendees who sat down with me, during the conference (in Newport, RI), and reviewed Beyond the Classroom Aquarium.
The NMEA is a branch of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) that focuses on increasing knowledge of the world of water and the practice of educating people about it. Beyond the Classroom Aquarium was recently mentioned in the “New Books and Media” section in the Fall 2016 edition of: Current: The Journal of Marine Education; a “peer-reviewed journal of the National Marine Educators Association. Current features lively, in-depth articles and learning activities relating to all aspects of the world of water….”


In 2015 and 2016, I offered Beyond the Classroom Aquarium for purchase as an 8.5″ by 11″ softcover book available through Createspace’s “Print on Demand” (POD) service. In it’s 347 pages are provided guidance and a structure that many educators may find useful for effectively leading students through a yearlong Curricular Sequence of 14 Project Based, STEM Oriented Aquatic Ecosystem Themed Learning Activities Their Students Will Love. Designed to start on the first day of school and continue throughout the year, I believe innovative educators find a lifetime’s worth of projects and ideas in this book.

In 2015 & 2016, interested parties followed the CreateSpace link to safely purchase a copy and have it delivered to them (…or family members, friends, colleagues, nature-center/museum gift-shop/bookstores, and/or local school/libraries). Nowadays, educators who would like to purchase a pront on demand copy must use a Kindle Direct Print (KDP) link to the book’s Amazon book sales page.

Many individuals and organizations have granted me permission to share their ideas with fellow educators (and students). These persons and organizations are acknowledged in the “Acknowledgement” post that is listed below. Should you know of someone who might contribute to this curriculum, I will gladly work with them and acknowledge their contributions.

I am deeply grateful to my many peers who have demonstrated a keen interest in reading Beyond the Classroom Aquarium and applying information presented in it as they work with their own students.

Although more information about the book is provided in the remaining text on this page, you may also read more about Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, it’s structure/format, and also review my grateful acknowledgements to those who have directly supported my efforts to pilot various activities with students by clicking on a link to one of the four bulleted posts below. The fourth post provides information that offers readers a fuller sense of my background and credibility as author of Beyond the Classroom Aquarium.

A General Overview of Beyond the Classroom Aquarium:  A Curricular Sequence of 14 Project-Based, STEM-Oriented, Aquatic Ecosystem Themed Learning Activities Your Students Will Love

Although titled: Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, the primary setting for the projects and activities described in this book is the classroom. However, scattered throughout the curriculum (particularly in the final five projects 10 – 14), despite the curriculum’s classroom setting, projects are designed to guide students to extend their application of skills and knowledge in STEM-Oriented and aquatic ecosystem themed learning activities well beyond their classrooms. The book’s title is intended to denote that the classroom activities and projects described in it are creative and transformative spin-offs of introductory classroom aquarium activities. Each of the seven chapters describes ways to guide secondary students through a structured sequence of aquatic ecosystem themed, STEM-oriented, project based learning activities.

By participating in the project based activities described in this book, students are exposed to concepts and skills that encompass but are not limited to: oceanography, physics, chemistry, biology, aquaponics, gardening; designing, critiquing, and constructing aquatic ecosystems (involving trades of carpentry, plumbing, and electronics); data collection, data analysis, design of auxiliary aquatic ecosystem components, microscopy, aquaculture, propagation of invertebrates, (from algae to coral), computer automation of aquatic ecosystem components, research design, community service, cultural awareness, public outreach (and public sharing of research results). Although most projects are designed to occur within a classroom setting, some activities are designed to help students directly apply developing knowledge and skills ” beyond  the classroom .

Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is an ambitious book for in-service veteran educators, students in pre-service education programs and other educators who seek bold approaches for providing comprehensive, individualized and year-long STEM-Oriented instruction in a unique and high interest, aquatic ecosystem themed project based learning context. The material in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium serves as a curricular template that educators may follow in guiding their students through the structured sequence of activities described in the book.

Chapter and section introductions are designed to encourage teachers to both personalize and scale the activities in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium to best meet the needs of their own students, school and setting. Information in each chapter introduction is also intended to encourage autonomous teacher decisions and actions required to guide students through the project activities. Educators may supplement Beyond the Classroom Aquarium project work with other educational resources and textbooks of their own choosing. Throughout, teachers are encouraged to guide students through an individualized math curriculum and help them explore direct connections between the math concepts they are studying and math related aquatic ecosystem concepts. Technological and design/engineering related activities are also important components of every project.

The book provides enough structure and information to enable teachers to guide their students through a yearlong series of STEM-Oriented aquatic ecosystem themed learning projects. Yet most teachers will appreciate the encouragement they are given to utilize their own instructional autonomy, flexibility, and newly discovered resources, to thoughtfully deviate from the program described in the book. Many timely technical support suggestions teachers will find easy to follow are also provided.

Unlike other curricula, daily involvement with classroom aquarium projects in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium allows students expansive and authentic hands-on exploration, discovery, inquiry and knowledge development; all under the guidance of an educator; in the context of a classroom or other amenable educational setting.

Included among the key features and benefits students derive from participation in the yearlong series of projects in this thoughtful anthology of aquatic ecosystem themed learning activities, is the recurrent opportunity to authentically apply newly developing skills and knowledge with each successive project.

In addition to helping students achieve common standards, and exposing students to a structured sequence of high interest, hands-on aquatic ecosystem related activities in the areas mentioned above, Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is written so as to ensure that all students are critically challenged; nurtured to acquire entrepreneurial skills that enable them to turn ideas into action; and guided to develop a critical mix of success-oriented attitudes of initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration, and opportunity recognition.

Thank you for visiting! Come on back and bring your friends, peers, colleagues, students (and family). And thanks also for visiting the Beyond the Classroom Aquarium Amazon/Kindle Direct Print link”. 

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