The Grandview pool may look a little smaller from now on to 20 local middle schoolers.

The Grandview pool may look a little smaller from now on to 20 local middle schoolers.

The students and six adult chaperones returned July 3 from an eight-day trip to Bonaire, an island off Venezuela that's part of the Netherlands.

While the students went on scuba-diving expeditions and explored the island, it wasn't just a pleasure trip.

"In essence, this was a science and cultural trip," said Cheri Brown, student staff support specialist at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School. Brown helped organize the trip with high school science teacher Jeremy Rummer.

Students were able to earn a half-credit in high school science by completing a research project about Bonaire.

"They worked individually or in groups, conducting interviews and researching," Brown said. "They were working every day on their project."

Rummer will conduct a follow-up class on the trip during the summer, and students will complete visual presentations of their projects that will be displayed at the middle school and high school, she said.

This was the second middle school trip to Bonaire. The first was held in 2013.

"Jeremy organized that trip when he was a seventh-grade science teacher," Brown said. "The idea was to give middle school students a chance to take the kind of trip that typically only high school students get to take."

For many of the students, it was their first experience traveling outside the United States.

"It introduces them to a culture that's very different from the one they experience at home," Brown said.

Each day was busy for the students, with a schedule that included scuba-diving classes and visits to landmarks such as the island's national marine park, salt flats and donkey sanctuary, as well as time to work on their projects.

"They still had some time to just relax and bask in the sun," Brown said.

Middle schooler Maya Hanscel said the trip "was so much greater than I expected.

"I was really interested in learning about another culture and getting a chance to meet the people there," she said.

Island cuisine was different and better than American food, Maya said.

"I got to sample some great dishes, including iguana soup, which actually has iguana as one of its ingredients," she said. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was really good."

She and a friend worked on a project examining the impact sunscreen is having on the island's coral reef.

The chemicals in sunscreen damage or kill the algae that coral reefs rely on, Maya said.

"It's a problem, because tourism is so important to the island, but all the sunscreen people use is harming the coral reefs," she said.

Spencer Browning researched how tourism impacts the island's economy.

"Tourism is their No. 1 source of income," he said. "They are really dependent on people visiting them."

Salt production is the island's other main economic resource, Spencer said.

Going on the trip "was a brand-new experience," he said. "We got to stay in condos ourselves and see another part of the world."

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