A group of eight Malvern Prep students spent their Spring Break in Florida, but this was no week at the beach or trip to the Magic Kingdom.
The juniors and seniors from Mr. Fry’s Marine Biology class went to the Florida Keys for five days of ecological education at the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute, located on ten acres in Big Pine Key, approximately 120 miles southwest of Miami. The area contains some of the most extraordinary sea and shore wildlife in the world, making it an ideal site for students to explore subtropical marine and land-based habitats. The institute is nestled within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Great White Heron National Wildlife Sanctuary.
"It was awesome," said Joe Kindon '12, who had been snorkeling once before in his life, but never with the kinds of colorful marine life he encountered in the only living coral reef in North America. "We saw sharks, barracuda, sea turtles and several kinds of tropical fish we had never seen before." Some of the highlights of the students’ trip included swimming with nurse sharks on Looe Reef, going side-by-side with a bottlenose dolphin, and observing loggerhead sea turtles and green moray eels. “They were in the water every day, getting hands-on experience with the coastal ecology in addition to spending time in the laboratories and workshops,” said Mr. Fry.
Students were able to put recent classroom lessons into practice in the Institute’s ‘classrooms’ made up of coral reefs, mangrove islands, seagrass communities and tidal pools. Additional activities included alligator watching, using specimen-collecting gear and exploring the waters of the Florida Keys in oceanographic research vessels. "The labs we did at night were really interesting," said Ryan Wheeler '12. "We were skimming the water for specimens and then doing dissections of a lot of different local, tropical fish."