FernLeaf believes in hands-on, experiential learning as a key way to foster curiosity and deep learning in our students. We believe in this SO strongly that our teachers coordinate multiple different optional travel opportunities, domestic and overseas, throughout the year for our students. From May 16th - May 20th, 2022 two of our teachers and a small group of students are at MarineLab, a Marine Science education center in Key Largo, Florida. These blog posts are written by the students and will document their adventures and learning!
The view from the plane window as we flew out of Asheville resembled the sun drenched island of the keys. The peaks of the mountains poked through the clouds for as far as the eye could see. We had smooth transitions from the airport, to rental cars, and down into the Keys where we reached our destination of MarineLab.
After a quick tour around our new home we immediately jumped into island life with a swim test in the lagoon. The water felt so refreshing as we donned our new snorkel gear and tested out skills. While in the water, Joe met one of his goals first thing as he was greeted by an incredible sea horse. While practicing our snorkeling skills we swam over a goliath grouper and more fish that were resting and taking refuge on an underwater hotel room. (for real!)
In classes today, we learned about the ecology of the local sea grasses and how they contribute to the stunning water quality of the Florida Bay. After a delicious dinner and ice cream we jumped back into the classroom to learn about ecology of the reef. We learned about the importance of a stable balanced community on the reef. They told us in the 80s there was a huge die off of long spine Sea Urchins. This caused trouble for the reef because they were not there to help keep unwanted algae at bay. We also learned about a lot of groups that are conducting research and helping restore coral populations in the local waters.
Finally, we rounded off the night with a water quality lab. We practiced our skills testing the water (salinity, pH balance, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and ammonia) that we will need to sample while out at the reef in the coming days. We will be helping contribute water quality readings to a citizen science project for researchers.
We had a jammed packed, fun filled day, and that was just day one! We can't wait to see what is in store.
UPDATE: Check out Day 2 here.