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Mar 27, 2018 12:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridgehampton Seventh-Grader Pushes To Get New Fish Tank At School

Bridgehampton seventh grade student Hugo Kapon with the aquarium he takes care of.  DANA SHAW
Mar 27, 2018 3:32 PM

Hugo Kapon loves mantis shrimp, and he wants to share that love with his peers. Inside a small classroom on the second floor of Bridgehampton School, Hugo, a seventh-grader, tends to a 20-gallon fish tank, where the marine crustacean lives. The 11-year-old is quick to point out why he loves the mantis shrimp: It has incredibly tough claws that can accelerate with the force of a .22-caliber bullet.

“Despite the fact that [the mantis shrimp] has the ability to strike with that force, anything that is bigger than it, that it’s scared of—just because that’s the cycle of life: anything bigger than you is going to eat you—it preys on only small fish, small crabs and things like that,” Hugo said, explaining the shrimp’s philosophy.

Hugo isn’t the shrimp’s only fan. “[He’s] the celebrity of the tank,” he said, noting that some of his friends also love and appreciate the mantis shrimp.

Hugo, who enjoys researching different aspects of marine life in his spare time, explained in a recent interview that his ultimate goal is to have a marine science club offered at his school. And he also has a plan to make that dream a reality.

He’s trying to convince the district’s Board of Education to install a much larger, 250-gallon tank at the front entrance of the building for everyone to see. The tank would be filled with an assortment of tropical fish, which are brighter and more appealing to the eye, Hugo explained.

He presented his idea to the Board of Education at its February 28 meeting, after investing a month on his presentation. While addressing board members, Hugo touted the benefits of the proposed tank—estimated to cost around $10,000, according to Principal Michael Miller—stressing that it would get other students interested in marine science.

While no resolutions were approved that night, the Board of Education appeared to be supportive of Hugo’s idea. Board of Education President Ron White did not respond to requests for comment.

Kameron Kaiser, a Bridgehampton science teacher who had Hugo in class last year, said his former student worked tirelessly on his pitch to the School Board. Hugo spent several weeks putting together a PowerPoint presentation and rehearsing his speech, according to Mr. Kaiser, who helps Hugo take care of the smaller tank.

Mr. Kaiser was proud of the presentation Hugo put on at the meeting. “He did a great job,” he said. “He got a little nervous at first.”

Hugo has proposed that the 250-gallon fish tank be included in the school’s planned expansion project, which calls for nearly doubling the size of the school. The expansion is being funded by a $24.7 million bond approved by taxpayers in May. Blueprints for the expansion call for a 35,000-square-foot addition on the back of the school, the construction of a new fitness center, and renovations to the older parts of the building. The work is expected to be completed in 2019.

While petitioning for a $10,000 fish tank sounds like a big task for a pre-teen, Hugo isn’t afraid of digging in to complete the required research.

Instead of spending his free time playing video games or going on social media, Hugo said he prefers perusing the internet to learn about whatever strikes his interest. Some days he will search for new fish facts, while other days he reads up on more dense topics, like the long-term effects of global warming.

Sometimes, Hugo’s quest to research fish can be a bit frustrating.

“Whenever you look up fish, half of it is seafood recipes … ” he said. “Don’t get me wrong—I love seafood. But half of what you look up is just seafood and not the fish themselves.”

Hugo explained that his internet research is one of the reasons why he is not afraid of sharks. While sitting on the edge of his seat in Mr. Miller’s office, he shared what he learned: that people pose a much greater danger to sharks than they do to humans.

Mr. Miller is clearly proud of Hugo’s hard work and helps keep him on track. He also acknowledged the student’s thirst for knowledge. “He’s full of Snapple facts,” Mr. Miller noted.

Hugo said his interest in marine science began about three years ago, when he went to a carnival and won two goldfish with his sister, Sarah, a fifth-grader at Bridgehampton. His father, James Kapon, bought him a 30-gallon fish tank for the goldfish, and Hugo began searching for possible friendly tank additions. He said he added catfish, neon tetra fish, and snails, because they wouldn’t eat the goldfish.

Hugo loves learning about marine life and has a hard time naming only a few favorites. His top three are angelfish, hermit crabs and octopi. He explained that angelfish are pretty, and he likes hermit crabs and octopi because they are intelligent.

The smaller fish tank in Mr. Kaiser’s class also is there because of Hugo. Instead of having a third study hall this year, Hugo’s father asked if his son could do something educational with his extra time at school. In late September, Mr. Kaiser secured a fish tank for Hugo to take care of. Every morning, the student is responsible for cleaning the tank and feeding the fish.

Hugo, who wants to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up, said he loves watching all the different fish in the tank, especially at feeding time.

“It’s very cool, because you can see all of them actually not fighting for their territory for once—just letting each other feed,” Hugo said. “They don’t want to fight when they are eating. When you’re eating dinner, you don’t want to fight.”

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Eat dirt, find bugs, and place "society" at arm's length...
By Mr. Z (10551), North Sea on Mar 29, 18 12:10 AM
"If you have a place to live and food to eat, you don't fight with others..."
Interesting that an 11 year old gets this concept but many in Washington do not.
By bird (731), Sag Harbor on Mar 29, 18 1:29 PM