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!
For our final day at MarineLab we started with our morning meeting and we discussed the Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development. We assessed where we thought we were as a group in the stages and determined that we fall into the performing stage. After breakfast we got ready for our Marine Debris lesson and snorkeled to pick up trash. We went back to the mangrove and seagrass beds that we snorkeled the first day. While out picking up trash we found a boat seat cushion, metal stakes, a large PVC pipe, and more. When we brought the trash back we sorted plastics vs random and determined that we collected 15 pounds of trash!
After we got done snorkeling we went to lunch. Our group surprised April for her birthday with cupcakes, a card, and singing. After lunch, we went on our last snorkeling trip! For this trip we went far out to Molasses reef. This is a spot that not many people get to experience because the ocean has to be calm. When we jumped into the water we first noticed it was a deeper reef, extremely clear, and the current was exceptionally strong. While on this snorkeling trip we spotted a 6 ft nurse shark relaxing on the seafloor. Also, a school of chubs joined in with our group and swam among our snorkelers. Our next snorkel spot for the day was a smaller reef that was shallow. Not even five minutes of being in the water, our instructor found a huge horse conch, trumpet fish, and tons of parrot fish chomping on the reef.
After dinner we finished our last night off with two labs! Our first lab was Behavior. In this lab we set up studies to observe the behavior of our bucket of invertebrates: brittle sea stars, lettuce sea slugs, tulip snails, sea stars, and scallops. One group tested to see if sea stars and brittle stars would rather go for shade or light. They determined that brittle stars like to be under protection. Another group looked at different substrates to see where they would go, but the tulip snails scared the scallops. This resulted in our scientists getting squirted in the face by the freaked out scallops. The final group made an obstacle course to see which animal would get to the shrimp first. In this experiment the sea stars were the only ones to move towards the shrimp.
In our final lab we explored zooplankton. We looked through microscopes to see their activity, identify them, and observe their behavior. We found a microscopic snail, copepods, fish eggs, tunicates and so much more. While in the lab we told bad jokes and laughed! We had a great final night. As we tucked in for bed we couldn't believe how fast the week has gone and how much we have accomplished. It is a bittersweet feeling packing up to leave tomorrow from this place we have come to love.