On the Road home from marine lab
Lionfish and triggerfish and barracuda, oh my! On our way home from our exciting UE/MS adventure to Marine Lab in Key Largo, we couldn’t help but think of the many parallels our oceanic adventure had to Dorothy’s landlocked escapades in Oz. Throughout their journey, our students faced new challenges, encouraged one another, and developed resiliency!
While several students had previous snorkeling experience, many had never snorkeled and were a bit anxious about our excursions to the mangroves and the coral reef. They encountered their first challenge soon after our arrival when the staff instructed everyone to gear up and plunge into the “refreshing” water for a swim test. It was heartening to see the kids exuberantly cheer each other on and either pair up with a fellow adventurous soul to swim out further in the lagoon or choose to play it safe and stick with a buddy closer to the dock. Just as Toto, the Tinman, Lion, and Scarecrow protected Dorothy as she traveled to the Emerald City, our students looked out for each other and had each other’s backs, which made it easier for some to attempt a new skill.
As Dorothy poignantly observed, “There is no place like home,” a sentiment that was readily apparent when the time came to check in with parents on the first evening. In some cases, excitement and bravado gave way to a bit of homesickness upon hearing familiar, comforting voices.
Once again, our students supported one another. It was truly heartening to see numerous pats on the back, reassuring hugs, and to hear the simple question, “Are you okay?” asked with genuine concern as students hung up their phones. Thanks to their friends’ empathy, those individuals who were missing their families, or who had never spent the night away from home, were able to take deep breaths, regroup, and participate enthusiastically in the night’s discussions of seagrass and coral reef ecology.
Snorkeling trips to the mangroves and coral reef were definite highlights of the trip for many. Jumping off a boat into unfamiliar waters was a frightening prospect to some; however, we were thrilled to watch our students gather their courage and confidently follow their dive buddies, eager to glimpse the myriad wonders just below the surface. It was extremely gratifying to see their ear-to-ear grins when they returned to the boats exclaiming over the diversity of sea life they observed! In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man thought he lacked a heart; the Scarecrow believed he lacked brains; and the Lion was convinced that he was a coward. In the end, of course, each realized that he had within him exactly what he needed the whole time. Resiliency and self-sufficiency are critical life skills. Watching our students dig deep, dive in, and recognize that they possessed the inner strength necessary to step out of their comfort zones and try something new was one of the best parts of the trip.
Now that we are home safely, and loads of soggy, smelly laundry have been washed, and bathing suits have been packed away until next summer, our students should be proud of their Marine Lab successes. Navigating the journey along the yellow brick road taught Dorothy essential life lessons, such as the importance of friendship and the necessity of persevering despite obstacles. As L. Frank Baum affirmed in his beloved novel, “Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge.” While an overnight field trip always offers plenty of prospects for fun, our trip to Marine Lab also presented students with opportunities to learn valuable lessons about themselves and each other that they will carry with them as they grow.
Spotlight by Heather Oulton and Will Smith