My students and I left on a charter bus to Sea Camp as soon as the Algebra “end of course exam” was over and started our 11-hour ride. Thanks to a DonorsChoose.org grant, expenses for the entire trip, including food, charter bus, and registration for a three-day Sea Camp were covered!
We arrived at Seaside Assembly dormitory about midnight and were all up by 7 a.m. for breakfast; we arrived at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies an hour later.
What an exciting day! A real marine biologist, Dr. Chris Breazealle, first showed us the public museum where my students actually touched sting rays, sharks, sea turtles and dolphins. Real science then began on the beach. My students had seine nets and water testing equipment similar to what we used for water testing on the Ouachita River near our school. They identified the “critters” they brought up and recorded the data.
We spent one day on Ship Island where students collected sharks' teeth, shells and other artifacts to compare those on the north side with those on the south side of the island. This was the first time most of my students had ridden on a large boat. Seeing sea gulls, dolphins and even sharks beside the boat was awesome. That night we went to a seafood buffet and everyone tried something new -- octopus, squid, sushi, crab legs, lobster, fresh shrimp, etc.
The next day the students took part in a dolphin rescue exercise, something they could really relate to. Another exercise was cleaning up after an oil spill. Students used Dawn soap and toothbrushes to try to remove oil without injuring turtles.
After three intensive days on the beach, we loaded the charter bus for the long trip home with lots of stories and experiences to share with friends and family.
Following the trip, I got this letter from one of my students:
Dear Mrs. Rusert,
Now I know that the ocean is real. It’s a lot more than a big lake and has a lot of strange animals that live in it. Sea Camp was fun, and I want to be a marine biologist and help save dolphins that are lost or hurt.
Even though it rained one of the days we were there, the ocean was so busy with waves, crabs, fish, sea shells, sand and it helped me understand tides and how bad ocean pollution really is. Nature writing during the trip helped me keep a record of everything I saw and did. Recording time for high and low tides was cool, even though we had to get up and go to the beach before the sun came up. I am going to enter the poem I wrote in a contest.
I really liked the bonfire that night on the beach. Seeing the jelly fish light up reminded me of lightning bugs at home. Bioluminescence is awesome!
Thank you for writing a DonorsChoose grant so we could go. It has changed my life.
Kathy Rusert is a teacher at Acorn High School in Mena, Arkansas. She’s had six DonorsChoose.org projects funded since 2008, including a $7,900 field trip that allowed her to take 20 seventh- and eighth-grade “mountain kids” to the ocean. While first-time projects with DonorsChoose.org can’t be as elaborate as her Sea Camp field trip described here, teachers can definitely work up to this after just a few smaller projects.
Photo courtesy of Flikr user Todd Martin