Whirlwind of a week in Wellesley (and beyond…)

What a week! And its only Friday morning…. I finally have a moment to breath tonight after settling in as the Marine Biology Camp Instructor and Live-in Counselor for boarding students attending the Boston Leadership Institute Summer Programs. BLI offers a variety of programs for high school students, who come from all over the country to attend camp in various subjects. The students staying in my dorm are attending either the Biological Research, or Marine Biology camp, so its a wonderful group of science geeks. I couldn’t feel more at home.

It wasn’t until last week when I was finalizing all the lesson plans and details that I realized how much time it takes to plan three weeks of Marine Biology lessons for high schoolers. While I’ve had my fair share of teaching experience, usually I am putting together short lessons for a single lab or activity, so planning all day lessons for three weeks of camp has been quite a valuable learning experience.

Since the camp is located in Wellesley, which is not very close to the ocean, I thought setting up a salt water aquarium would be a great way to bring the ocean to us. Having never done this before, I barely knew where to start, but luckily my awesome, makeshift TA (fellow grad student Steve Smith), and the terrific people at Tropical Isle Aquariums in Framingham were there to help.

Forbes sea star and common periwinkle just chillin' in the tank
Forbes sea star and common periwinkle just chillin’ in the tank
Jonah crabs and club tunicates
Jonah crabs and club tunicates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aquarium was definitely worth the effort, as it has provided an endless source of entertainment and education for the students. Whenever we have down-time between activities they can be found checking the salinity and pH and trying to extract the juvenile lobster from his rocky cave hiding spot. Sometimes the aquarium does the teaching for me. Species interactions such as predation and competition are demonstrated seamlessly as a sea star pries open a mussel and two hermit crabs battle it out to decide who gets to move into the large whelk shell.

Since we are not near the ocean, field trips are a must. Tuesday we ventured out to the Boston Harbor Islands to survey the rocky shore of Georges Island, and document the invasive species fouling the dock pilings. Students were fascinated by the squishy tunicates, especially when I told them how closely-related we are to these simple blob-like animals.

Students reference their self-made field guides to ID species during a rocky shore survey on Georges Island
Students reference their self-made field guides to ID species during a rocky shore survey on Georges Island

Wednesday we did Gyotaku, the japanese art of fish printing, and dissected our fish afterwards to learn their anatomy.

I thought students might be squeamish about the fish - but they loved it!
I thought students might be squeamish about touching the fish – but they loved it!
Fish printing on t-shirts is a great way to show off your artistic talents!
Fish printing on t-shirts is a great way to show off your artwork!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday it was human impacts on marine systems with overfishing simulations and an ocean acidification experiment. I shared my passion for raising awareness about marine debris and we all took the Ocean Conservancy’s pledge to work towards a cleaner ocean. Click here to take the pledge!

Now its time to start planning for next week. Thank goodness there is so much to teach about the ocean!

The best part about my position at the camp is that the organizer contacted me to be the teacher because she had read about my interest/experience in marine education on this very blog. Yay for social media helping scientists and educators connect!

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