Island adventure: Students learn between dives
Trip to Bonaire lends itself to science, history, cultural lessons
Fourteen Edison Intermediate-Middle School students made this summer one to remember with a weeklong trip to the Caribbean island of Bonaire last month.
The students, joined by Edison teachers Jeremy Rummer, Cheri Brown, Naome Allison and two parents, spent the week diving, snorkeling and learning about the culture and environment of the small island, part of the Caribbean Netherlands off the coast of Venezuela.
The trip was suggested by Rummer, a seventh-grade science teacher and a diver and instructor at the Underwater Connection in Grandview.
"The ocean and diving are his passions and he always wanted to organize a student trip if he could find enough students and parents who were interested," said Brown, a seventh-grade social studies teacher.
"My husband, Pete, and I went to Bonaire two years ago and we thought it was a perfect place to take the students," she said.
"About the only thing to do there is to dive," Brown said. "It's not a place with a lot of night life or gambling and casinos. It's a laid-back, easy-going island that's a safe place for kids."
Rummer provided scuba-diving instructions to those students who needed them ahead of the trip, she said.
Steven Lower, an Ohio State University professor who served as a chaperone on the trip, was able to earn a National Science Foundation grant used to purchase scuba-diving equipment for students, Brown said.
"The entire group went diving every morning," she said. "Some students went diving again in the afternoon, or they could take part in different activities we scheduled."
The activities included a bird-watching expedition, snorkeling off a catamaran and visits to flamingo and donkey sanctuaries.
"As much fun as the kids had, it was also a learning trip," Brown said. "Everyone took classes each day. I taught the culture and history of the island and Jeremy taught about identifying fish and basic science, including the effect of hurricanes on the reef and coral."
Students were required to create a budget for the trip, have it approved by their parents and check it each day, she said.
The Grandview students met members of the Junior Rangers, a group of Bonaire teens who are learning to scuba dive and finding out how they can help protect their island's environment.
"It was nice for our students to get to meet some local kids," Brown said. "They went snorkeling together and we had a pizza party."
For Alex Joseph, who will enter ninth grade in the fall, "it was nice to get out of school and learn in a different environment."
It's one thing to read about fish and see pictures of them projected on a screen, she said.
"It's another thing to actually be swimming among them, in their habitat," Joseph said. "I really enjoyed learning about all these fish I had never heard of, especially seeing them up close."
Joseph said she had been interested in marine biology as a possible career choice and wanted to take the trip to find out if that interest was genuine.
"It definitely made me more enthusiastic about wanting to study marine biology," she said.
Eighth-grader Sadie Luckenbach said she also enjoyed learning about fish.
"In our classes, we learned about 80 different kinds of fish, kinds of fish you won't find around here," she said. "It was fascinating to learn about so many unusual types of fish."
One of the highlights for her was the visit to the donkey sanctuary.
"A lot of donkeys are used in Bonaire on farms and they often aren't treated very well. This sanctuary rescues and protects them," Luckenbach said. "It was so much fun riding in the back of a truck and feeding the donkeys in the sanctuary."
For more information and to view photos from the trip, visit ghmsresearch.blogspot.com.