Camden Students Travel to the Florida Keys for Environmental Studies

While most high school students loathe the idea of homework over a holiday break, students from Camden Academy Charter High School (CACHS), a part of Camden’s Charter School Network, don’t seem to mind.

The high school’s AP Environmental Science class will be traveling through southern Florida and the Florida Keys for six days during their Spring Break this April for some authentic hands-on learning.

This trip will give the students the opportunity to experience first-hand what they are learning in class, according to AP Environmental Science teacher Timothy Pilla.

“We’ve been learning about the impact of humans on the environment,”  Pilla said. “The benefit of this kind of trip is that the students get to apply [the] knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom in a real live setting.”

That setting will include an airboat ride through the Everglades, kayaking through mangroves, and snorkeling the barrier reef.

The Florida trip was planned in association with the Center for Aquatic Sciences (CAS) at Adventure Aquarium whose mission is “education and youth development through promoting the understanding, appreciation and protection of aquatic life and habitats.” CAS provides science enrichment programming throughout the Camden Charter Network from grade one through twelve, including various afterschool programs. 

“Experiencing science and distant ecosystems first hand is potentially life altering,” CAS Director of Education Jack Carr said.  “The concepts students learned about during the year in the AP Environmental Science course will be greatly amplified as they experience them in real life.   Touching mangrove trees from a kayak or watching a shark swim over a coral reef while snorkeling has a far greater chance of making a lasting impact on a student than a classroom ever will.”

Along with boating and snorkeling activities, the students will visit Marathon Turtle Hospital to learn about research and medical treatment of sea turtles. They will also spend time at the Dolphin Research Center also in Marathon.

CACHS senior Abigail Roman said she was excited to actually see what the class has been learning about.  “We’re learning just how fragile the coral reef is,” she said, “and how easily trash just touching it can harm it.”

Senior Cesar Ramirez, who currently is a student intern at the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, said he was looking forward to the Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Center.  “I just finished animal training — how to handle turtles, lizards, alligators, and frogs to show to people — so I’m really interested to see how they handle the dolphins.”

The group of students will also be performing community service while there.  “We’re going to work with the Redlands Christian Migrant Association,” Pilla said.  Volunteers for the association help by reading to children and serving as tutors.

“The students will be able to see how they can make a difference to people, to the environment, and to the world,”  Pilla said.

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