November 25, 2014  

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After School Camp Offers Opportunities for Budding Marine Biologists

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Educators and scientists at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) and Marine Education Center have introduced a new after school camp designed to promote and stimulate the interest of young students in marine biology.

These “After School Marine Biologists will spend one afternoon a week immersed in a learning environment with the scientists, researchers and educators at GCRL and the Marine Education Center participating in hands-on learning experiences in the field, on land, over water, and inside state-of-the-art laboratories. There will be hiking, kayaking, fishing, dissections and chemistry. This program will expose participants to the day-to-day activities of real life marine biologists.

Chris Snyder, director of GCRL’s Marine Education Center says this program is specifically designed to help foster an interest in marine biology among upper elementary students. 

“One of the most common comments we hear from parents is, ‘my child wants to be a marine biologist, what programs do you have to help them find out if this the career for them,’ ” said Snyder. “In response to these requests we are offering these young students a chance to stand in the shoes, and sometimes the boots, of our own marine biologists and learn what it would be like to choose marine biology, environmental chemistry or the field of research as their career path.”

The students will learn from our marine educators, scientists, and researchers gaining new skills and experiences that will last a lifetime. Once a week, participants embark on a field study excursion by hiking, boating, or participating in a lab activity.

“We crafted a program that is immersive, fun and educational. Our educators want the science learned that afternoon to be a fun topic at the family dinner table that evening.” Snyder said.

After School Marine Biologist Camp offers an expansive range of marine biology and coastal science topics infused with a balance of inside and outside learning environments. Here is just a sample of the topics, which will be explored: 

  • Fish Biology and Behavior
  • Alligators, Snakes, Turtles and Frogs
  • Shark Biology and Whale Sharks
  • Invasive Species
  • Whales and Dolphins
  • Coastal Ecology

Snyder said the initial offering is targeted to upper elementary school students. “We are kicking this program off by offering it to on Monday afternoons to 5th and 6th grade students,” he said. “These kids are old enough to get their hands dirty and their feet wet while working along side educators and scientist. If the interest is there from other age groups, we will expand the program on additional days and possibly Saturday.”

Camp begins Monday, Sept. 8 and will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Campers will be dropped off and picked up at GCRL, 703 East Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, Miss. The monthly tuition is $150 or $375 for three months. Tuition includes fees for boats, kayaks, bus transportation, program materials, field equipment, laboratory materials, and specimens. Afternoon snack will be provided.

Camp is limited to 20 participants; $50 deposit secures your child’s spot. For more information contact the Marine Education Center at 228-818-8833 or go online to http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/mec/after.school.marine.biologist.php.