Students’ activities began at 7 a.m. each morning, lasting typically to 8 p.m. In that time, students were involved with activities such as plankton lab, maritime forest beach walk, estuarium museum visits, Dauphin Island Sea Lab research vessel excursions, salt marsh experimentations, and seining the marshes for juvenile marsh life.
“The students were wet, muddy, excited, energetic and exhausted every day,” gifted education teacher Emily Ford said. “The parents who attended thought that the trip was very educational and beneficial to their child’s gifted resource experience. Many of them have commented that they learned as much as their children did during this trip.”
In the plankton lab, students went out into Mobile Bay with plankton nets and captured plankton samples. They then brought them back into the lab environment and observed the samples under microscopes and discovered how many various forms of plankton could be obtained in such a small sample.
They also help “Plankton Olympics” to further their operating knowledge of plankton — and just for fun, of course.
“The students feel strongly that they benefited significantly from the research vessel trips out into Mobile Bay,” Ford said. “They experienced firsthand what an estuary is and how it sustains juvenile marine life. Now these students and parents fully comprehend why our estuaries are such a critical part of the marine ecosystem.”
Ford stated that during the maritime forest beach walk, her students experienced firsthand the three levels of dunes that help protect barrier islands and therefore the mainland of the Alabama gulf coast from devastating hurricanes.
“The students were able to gain a better understanding of the affects of Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina,” she said. “We saw all the aspects of a barrier island and the many ways in which it is formed to help better provide the barrier protection from hurricanes that can rip through our coastline if they were not there.“
During their Dauphin Island adventure, students also experienced many marine animals including the electric ray, fiddler crabs, periwinkle snails, mussels, and man-o-war jellyfish.