Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Field Tripping On The Gulf Of Florida ... part one.

Yesterday was the annual Marine Science field expedition to the waters surrounding Cedar Key and her sister islands.
Most of the pictures I took are just for my kids and me since I keep them anonymous on my blog, but I was able to sift through the 85 photos and find a few "back o' the head" type shots that illustrate the trip experience, while keeping the kids pretty incognito.

I'll split the trip into a few posts ... remember, I'm working on dialup here.

So, let us begin with anticipation ... perhaps the best part of any experience.

Above, half of my total crew of 29 kids are heading out for their first experience dredging the seafloor. At this point, they are clean, dry, unslimed, uncrabpinched, unshrimpstuck, but still thrilled to be there.
The bulky open ocean life jackets are an insurance requirement (thanks alot, lawyers). We did get to take them off when the boat wasn't underway.

Our procedure was to lower a dredge net over the side and tow it for 3-5 minutes. The net was then hauled aboard, full of seaweed and critters. This was dumped onto the deck of the boat and the students dug through it, capturing and mostly releasing a host of juvenile marine life.
A few live critters came home for our classroom aquarium.

At first, there is some trepidation, but pretty soon the kids were digging through the seaweed with gusto. They also worked the lines and the heavy dredge after I do the first network and model what the technique is. It's a lot of work, the dredge is not just some fluffy netting. It's a welded metal frame that probably weighs 50 pounds empty and twice that when it's pulled aboard full of seaweed and mud. Still, they absolutely love this part, managing the net, hauling lines ... it's a beautiful thing to see them working at sea in the fresh air ... far from their Wii's and Xboxes.

Here's a sweet little pipefish ... actually, this is a pretty big pipefish. Pipefish are seahorse cousins with similar lifestyles. If you straightened out a seahorse, you'd pretty much have a pipefish. This one was dressed up in some amazing blue highlights ... it is the season to show off, of course.

The whole pipefish resting briefly on my hand. They are a little tough to keep happy in the aquarium unless you raise brine shrimp or provide other tiny live feed.

The seagrass beds below are full of juvenile animals, fish especially that are spending the most vulnerable period of their lives in the thick food rich cover. This little grunt was one of many young fish that came aboard.

I told the kids to rescue fish from the seagrasses first as they are the most delicate of our catch. Most of the inverts can survive a little time topside, but fish need water. They translated this message into "FISH ARE OUR FRIENDS" from Bruce the shark, in Finding Nemo. That became their chant as they tossed tiny fish back into the drink.

My friend Albert and me.

Albert is a County Agricultural Extension Agent and the provider of the boat services. His office takes school groups, 4H groups, and others out on the water for a variety of activities aboard their brand new pontoon boat. He and I have done these trips together for a long time, which makes it really nice. We know each other's routines and procedures and what to expect from each other.

"Highly trained and efficient" as we used to say in another life of mine before teaching.

If you toss in the fact that Albert is a heck of a nice guy who is going to go the extra mile to make sure the kids get a great dredging experience ... well, it just all comes together.

And I do so love it when a plan comes together.

Tomorrow: Part Two: "You Caught A What?"


pablo said...

Best. Teacher. Ever!

Doug Taron said...

What Pablo said. When I look back at the biology teachers who most influenced me, they were the ones who did really compelling and dynamic field experiences. None of them measure up to what I'm seeing of this trip. I wish that more kids could have a biology teacher like you.

Anonymous said...

Ask TD about our biology teacher in high school. A real "loon." I'm sure he remembers him. Your kids are lucky.
Bro J

Anonymous said...

You and Albert are the real deal, bro. That is an amazing experience and to see young adults learning something "real" just can't be beat.

roger said...

i would have given, well i don't know what, for a field trip like that in 7th grade. or 8th, 9th 10th.......

you should get master teacher bonus points.

Anonymous said...

FC your co teacher’s should be jellus that looks a great time. Much more fun than sitting in a classroom. Alass they should be taking notes, like the students. The students will remember this day for a long time. Is your pay based on teacher bonus points? If so you’ll make enough on this one to take a vacation. Good job on impressing upon young minds how precious mother earth is S T E B

robin andrea said...

Biology class field trips? That definitely didn't happen when I was in school. You are an A+ teacher, Mr. FC.

Dr. Know said...

As I was reading this, I kept thinking what a cool teacher and why didn't we have trips like this in school. Then I open the comments and see the same sentiment echoed over and over.

So never mind. No need giving you the big head. ;-)

That is one big-ass pipefish. As a kid (8-10), used to save my pennies in order to buy a cheap two-man seine while on vacation in Florida, around the Gulf and Clearwater - before it is what it is now. Used to haul all kinds of neat, sometimes creepy stuff up, and the occasional pipefish were one thing I contributed to the local aquarium. The multicolored shrimp that hung around the pilings of Clearwater pier (and others) were pretty cool as well. By the time I escaped GA and moved there as an adult, I was dissapointed to find them coated in oil and barren of most life. Just the occasional Blenny and immature Sgt. Majors. That's progress, eh?

threecollie said...

Your field trips seem like a dream to me. There just can't be anything more fun! thanks for taking us along!!!!

Laura said...

Growing up in Miami, we used go on wading tours of Biscayne Bay while in elementary school, and I never could figure out why they didn't offer it in the middle school and high school classes. It was shame, living so close to the water and yet so far from a living lab.

Brittany's school offers a marine )trip to the Keys, but only if one is in the Marine Biology class and only if the kid can come up with the $$$.

So I know these kids are having an experience they'll remember for years and years to come! Bet you enjoyed the trip just as much as they did!

p.s. Rick's elect. wire cutters are Just Fine. pfft LOL!

Emily said...

That looks like so much fun! I'm going to get my 4-H agent to give Albert a call and see if I can't get my club out there. They would love it!

Deb said...

That looks like a day to remember! Hooray for FC and Albert!

Hurricane Teen said...

There's no better way to kick a sickness than to get out into that fresh sea air!
Sounds like an awesome day. I am jealous of your students...We studied sewage treatment plants today in my science class!!

cinbad122 said...

I knew that little guy was a grunt 'cuz I like to eat'em! ;)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I can tell I am going to enjoy this series, even if it is on dialup. You won't want to use good stuff too early.

cedrorum said...

Some of my fondest class memories were from when I did this in marine biology classes while going to school. Brings back great memories.

Floridacracker said...


We have 4 small high schools in our large rural county and at each my conterparts do similar trips. One even has FFA kids farming clams.
I'm not special ... maybe our location is.

Bro J,
Mine were incredibly dull, book people who never had us do any hands on activities much less an actual field trip.

It's very good for them ... me too apparently as my cold is almost gone today.

this trip is fun at any age.

Thanks, I just believe they have to get out into it to appreciate it. Florida teacher pay is based on the latest 1928 cost of living survey.

Didn't happen for me either back then. I'm making up for it now tho!

Painful definition of progress isn't it ... not to dis blennies of course, they are wonderful rascals, but what a shame to lose what you described.

Wait, there's more!

Your PS had me ROFL!
Too funny!
This trip was paid for by the kids. Only in the last two years have I had to charge the kids, there used to be money for this sort of learning.
Next year promises to be even worse. Our poor county is losing a half million dollars in this initial cut.

You won't be sorry. Albert and Brenda (another agent) take kids of all ages out there and they really do a good job. (Levy County Ag Extension Office in Bronson)

I think it will be for these kids. They were buzzing about it today, reliving it, and spreading the word.

Well, we need those or we wouldn't have any clean Gulf water.
Sorry, I'm trying to find a bright spot.

I knew you'd find a food angle on this! I like to eat them too!

It just takes a while to upload. I click to upload the pics and then go for a walk.
A long one.

Floridacracker said...

I hope that's what I'm planting here.

Sharon said...

we NEVER took a field trip like that! That is AWESOME. Ditto Pablo!

Ol' Lurker said...

Speaking of "Personal Flotation Devices".....
Would hate to see FC swept overboard and eaten by a school of Pipefish or whatever.

Alan said...

No boating field trips like that growing up, but we did get to go to the Okeefenokee Swamp for a day, and the Olusee battle reenactment for a day, and the Jax Zoo... those I remember...

I only partially agree with Bruce the Shark - Fish are friends... and food! Especially when battered and deep fried, haha. :)

Floridacracker said...

Well, you should have!! Thanks!

Ol Lurker,
Safety is so overrated ...

Friendly food they are.