Middle School Service Trip: Discovering Marine Conservation

During Baldwin’s Spring Break, 12 Middle School students traveled to Key Largo, Florida, for a week of activities involving service, culture and exploration.  The group worked with Marine Design Lab to learn about marine biology and conservation.  Grace Halak ’22, Blake Landow ’22, Thea Rosenzweig ’22, Sarah Ying ’22 and Elva Chen ’22 discussed their experiences:

“When I first heard about the Rustic Pathways service trip to Key Largo, I immediately began imagining what I would tell my parents that night to convince them to sign me up. I had received many positive reviews from my peers who went on the New Orleans trip two years ago, so I was incredibly excited when Baldwin offered another Rustic Pathways experience, especially since it relates to marine biology, which fascinates me. I had always thought it was wonderful that Baldwin offered so many opportunities for service as a student, but environmental service had always been my favorite. This trip promised that and more: a week of snorkeling, experimenting and collecting environmental data in Key Largo with MarineLab. The trip sounded like the perfect blend of education, service and fun, and it did not disappoint me.”

“This trip was one of the best and most exciting weeks of my life. We got to go snorkeling almost every day, which gave us so many wonderful opportunities to explore and learn about marine life. Our first day’s activities included learning about coral reef ecology and then later getting to experience the reefs ourselves. Later that evening, we had a fish identification class where we learned how to discern different types of fish, and engaged in a water quality lab. This prepared us for the next day when we headed out to the reef again. This time it was so much more enjoyable and compelling because we knew exactly what we were looking at. During the few days we had left, we enjoyed a seagrass ecology class, snorkeled in the mangroves, took part in a coastal clean-up, participated in a micro-plastics lab and an invertebrate identification lab, referred to as the ‘rock shake’, in which we observed minuscule marine creatures living on algae growing on rocks from the ocean. On our final day at MarineLab, we went on one last snorkel in the mangroves on the bay, and then we headed back to Miami. It is incredible how much everyone learned on this trip and it felt good to help our environment in the process. There was an exhilarating adventure ahead of us every day. I was extremely satisfied with Rustic Pathways and MarineLab’s program, and I can say the same for the rest of the group. I am grateful for the opportunity, and the only thing I would change would be to make the experience last longer!”

“On this trip, I learned a lot about marine life and our environment. We had lessons on the coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves, fish and how humans affect these things. Now that the trip is over, I am more aware of my actions that affect the environment. At MarineLab, the group participated in a micro-plastics lab, in which we observed the amount of plastic in a sample of water from the boat dock. The results were staggering. I learned about statistics and how the ratio of micro-plastics to plankton was very large, and how plastic in the ocean is detrimental to animals and their habitats. This lab and the whole experience made me think about things I can do to help, even if it is just changing a small part of my life.”