Updated: May 20
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!
On day 2 of our fieldwork to MarineLab, some of the group got up early and walked to the water to watch the sun rise. Each day while we're at the water we have a morning meeting. This is where we get to practice mindfulness and talk about goals for the day. After our early rise, we ate breakfast to fuel for a busy day.
Students jumped in boats and rode out to the mangroves and seagrass beds in the Black water sound of Florida Bay. On our way out to the mangroves, a small pod of dolphins surfed and played on our boat waves. Once we arrived at the mangroves we learned that there are three types of mangroves in the Keys. Red mangroves are closest to the water and deal with salt by excluding it and not taking it in. Next, there are the Black Mangroves that take in salt but the leaves excrete it. Finally, there are the White Mangroves that do not really have to deal with salt at all. While at the mangroves we saw mangrove crabs and touched upside down jellyfish.
Next, we put on our gear and jumped into the water. While out snorkeling, we swam past fish like barracudas, starfish, upside down jellyfish, anemones, and more. Our guides collected some species for us to observe while back on the boat. Students were lucky enough to hold and learn about brittle sea star, lettuce sea slug, sea urchins, and tulips snails.
After lunch we boarded the boats again to go out and visit the coral reef sites of Horse Shoe and Banana. Once we jumped in we saw tons of fish right away. Everything from angel fish, barracuda, parrot fish, box fish, and porcupine fish. While at the coral reef we also got to see fan coral, which is a type of flexible coral. In the boulder coral category we saw small brain, stag horn coral, and elk horn coral. Finally, at our last dive site three spotted eagle rays graced us with their presence. They majestically glided through the water column underneath us. Some of the kids saw a reef shark in the distance swimming away.
After dinner we finished our night out with a class and lab. In fish class we learned about how to identify local reef fish. Students looked at shape: body, mouth position, caudal fin (tail), and form along with their habitat and behavior. Finally, during our night lab we shook out some rocks and observed invertebrates. Our goal was to find as many different species as possible in order to document and see if water quality has changed. MarineLab has been conducting this lab for 30 years!
We can't wait to see what Day 3 has in store for us!