Far from the classroom, in the waters of Gloucester Harbor, Class VII Marine Biology elective students were marine biologists for the day during a recent field trip. "It's much like a boot camp," says Gail Lima, Ph.D., science teacher and recipient of the Essential Winsor Chair in Science, with a smile. "It's intensive and immersive, and yet a lot of fun!"
Rising with the sun, students traveled to Eismann's Beach in Swampscott, where the day began with "a study to understand adaptations of organisms and the factors that influence their distribution in the rocky intertidal." Next, they boarded the schooner Ardelle where the students gained exposure to the sampling techniques employed by marine biologists. The girls collected and compared water samples at different depths, conducted plankton tows to assess the biological diversity, and also used an underwater camera to visualize the physical and biological properties of the ocean floor.
After returning to port, the class headed to the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center where they worked in a lab using video microscopes to analyze the samples from the plankton tows. And they ended the day with a visit to the Center's Sea Pocket Aquarium where the girls had the opportunity to closely observe and handle local marine organisms including skates, sea stars, and horseshoe crabs.Throughout the day, "students use observational skills to understand the relationships of marine organisms to their environment and strong reasoning skills to formulate ideas about some of the fundamental principles related to the study of marine biology," notes Ms. Lima. Expanding learning well beyond the classroom, "the field trip really is an essential and unforgettable experience for the students."