BioTECH High Offers Unique Wildlife Photography Course

Billed as the nation's only conservation biology magnet high school, BioTECH High is unique in many ways.

Only in its second year of existence, the school is small, with only 252 students. Located in Richmond Heights, right across the street from Coral Reef High School, BioTECH obviously emphasizes science, but since every high school student in Florida must take a fine arts class, BioTECH's administration came up with an interesting solution.

The school merged nature with art and created a wildlife photography class, the first of its kind anywhere, as far as they know.

The best part? Their classroom is sometimes Everglades National Park, it's their backyard on other days, and once a week it's Zoo Miami.

"What a beautiful thing, your classroom is nature, it's the world, it's not the four walls," said BioTECH High Principal Jose Sirven.

On this day, Zoo Miami's Ron Magill, an accomplished wildlife photography expert, was on hand to share tips with the students as they took pictures of the birds inside the zoo's aviary.

"Now he's in the sun, get those shots, look at those colors," Magill shouted at a group of kids who had their lenses trained on a brightly-plumaged Asian water bird.

"They learn patience, too. It's not like having an animal in a small cage, and they learn creativity," Magill said.

The teacher for this course said she has the best photography job in Miami, and loves the way her students learn to think for themselves.

"With science and math, there's kind of definite answers and they're kind of used to that. So they always want a certain answer from me and with art there is no right or wrong answer. Everything can be right and everything can be wrong, depending on how you look at it. So they're kind of learning to think outside the box a little bit," said Eilyn Aguirre, wildlife photography teacher.

The class also teaches kids how to really observe wild animals.

"When you look through the lens of a camera it gives you different viewpoints of different wildlife and it forces you to really observe. By taking photographs of the wildlife, you're learning their behavior, more about it, and in turn learn to appreciate it," Magill said.

Some of the students had never even picked up a camera before this school year. Now they're even skilled at editing their pictures on computers back in school. It's all part of the process. They take all the traditional classes at BioTECH, including a full range of AP courses, but wildlife photography has captured the hearts and imaginations of the students.

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