Project news

From estuaries to uninhabited islands: Gill Guardians’ Science Camps

By Jasmin Graham, 17th March 2024

Our Gill Guardians outreach efforts have recently expanded to include two camps. The first camp is a Spring Break camp offered as a day camp for middle schoolers to have a fun, safe place to learn and explore while they are out of school for spring break. This free camp runs from 9am-5pm and transportation is provided for those kids whose guardians are unable to ring them to camp. During the week, the kids explore ocean science through a variety of lenses. They spend one day learning about marine chemistry and how water quality can affect sea life. This year, they also got a behind the scenes tour of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to learn how water quality is monitored and maintained in the aquarium facilities. They spend another day learning about ocean engineering including building ROVs, learning to code and exploring other ways engineering is used in the ocean. Another day focusses on biology, and the kids spend the day seine netting, fishing, looking at plankton and investigating all the organisms that call their local estuary home. We also spend some time talking about watersheds and environmental stewardship. After having learned about various aspects of ocean science, they spend the last day exploring their own scientific curiosity. They get to pick a topic of their choice to investigate based on something they learned or saw during the week or something they’ve just always wondered about. They spend their morning doing background research, developing the research question and the methodology they will be using to investigate their question. Then our favourite part happens, we turn them loose and see what they come up with! On the last day of the camp we like to incorporate art to show how the beauty of the natural world can be explored through this lens as well and that art can be a powerful tool to communicate science or the importance of conservation. They get to spend some time going through a local art museum, finishing up the projects and preparing to present. At the end of the last day they get to share what they worked on with their friends, family and community members.

Students snorkelling on the Gill Guardians Summer Camp. Photo © Jasmin Graham | Gill Guardians

Students at the Gill Guardians' camp. Photo © Jasmin Graham | Gill Guardians

Our Summer Camp is also a week long experience, but it is a fully immersive, residential camp that takes place on Sea Horse Key, an uninhabited island off Cedar Key, FL. During this camp, high school students get to experience marine science surrounded by ocean. It’s a truly unique experience that allows these teens to connect with nature in a way many of them have never done before. This camp is also free and transportation is provided. They get to do many of the things we do in the spring break camp as well as kayak, snorkel, do a shark dissection and go out on the boat to trawl and longline. It’s an incredible opportunity for the teens to observe a scientific shark survey and see sharks, fish and invertebrates in the wild. These campers also get the opportunity to conduct their own research projects which they present on the last day of camp. Overall these camps have been a truly rewarding experience for not only the campers, but the camp directors and instructors as well. We look forward to having more camps in the future.

Students fishing whilst on the Gill Gaurdians' Summer Camp. Photo @ Jasmin Graham | Gill Guardians

Students fishing at the Gill Guardians' Summer Camp. Photo © Jasmin Graham | Gill Guardians

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