Jumping into Marine Biology: Seventh Grade Anchor Trip to Key Largo, Florida

Every year our fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students take a grade-level anchor trip. At St. Paul’s we believe that our anchor trips provide key opportunities for community building, hands-on learning and leadership development.

Our seventh grade students traveled to Key Largo, Florida, in April to study marine biology. During this four-day trip, our students studied seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecology, led by the fantastic staff at the Marine Lab.

Each day, students piled into boats and set out on the crystal clear ocean, snorkeling for around six hours each day at the first underwater state park in America, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. While snorkeling in three coral reefs, students learned the art of careful observation as the Marine Lab staff taught them how to slow down, observe their environment, and identify the phylum of the organisms they see. This careful observation is a critical skill in St. Paul’s STEAM curriculum.
 
Every evening, after a full day of snorkeling, students participated in a lab class, studying invertebrate diversity and behavior, microplastics, and zooplankton identification. The lab classes allowed students to not only see a wealth of sea organisms, but learn about them in depth.
 
Throughout the trip, we watched students grow in two key areas that are central to St. Paul’s mission: As we created opportunities for them to learn in a new environment, they became confident learners, jumping into the ocean to grow in their understanding of the world around them.

“Hands-on learning can bring a subject to life and ignite a passion for science that might not happen in a traditional classroom setting,” Andrew Myler, Head of School, said.

This learning leads to compassionate citizenship as students gained an experiential understanding of how their everyday living – even in Kansas City - affects ocean life.

And, of course, the trip was a lot of fun.

“I didn’t expect to learn as much, and at the same time have SO much fun, in just four days,” a seventh grade student said. “We got to see a manatee, which was on my bucket list. And I expected the classes to be boring, but they were actually really fun to learn about everything and it was very hands on.”
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