Keys Trip Delivers Hands-On Experience for Seventh Graders


Ms. Featherston

The students learn about mangroves and the coastal ecosystem during one of their boat rides in the Keys.

Every May, the seventh-grade takes a trip to the Marine Lab in Key Largo for a few days which is the culmination of their science unit on South Florida sea life. In the Keys, the students participate in hands-on labs, go snorkeling to observe the coastal ecosystem, and participate in classes with the facilities’ staff. Because it’s a seventh-grade trip, it is led by seventh-grade science teacher Mrs. Stephanie Oster.

“What isn’t there to like about the Keys trip?” said Oster. “I love everything. I love the research, I love the labs, I like the snorkling, I like the diving, I like the identification, [and] I like seeing [the] kids involved and engaged.”

Ms. Featherston
Seventh graders Connor Keenan (left) and Nicole Nicklaus look for organisms in a bucket of water that were living within the algae of a rock from the ocean floor.

During this final quarter, the science students have been learning all about marine life in the Keys, and the trip was an opportunity for them to get some first-hand experience with the species and organisms they have been studying.

“[This Keys trip is] actually a hands-on tangible lab [where] the kids actually see it, feel it, and experience it,” said Oster.

During the last few weeks leading up to the trip, Oster assigned the students a journal or field guide in which they had to log approximately 20 different species of marine life that are indigenous to the reefs in the Keys. The students not only had to draw, color, and label the organisms by their scientific names, but they also had to list their prey, predators, genus, and species. Some of the species they had to research were turtle grass, manatee grass, fire coral, lionfish, and blue striped grunt, among others.

Although the field guide was a lot of work, the students learned a lot on the trip and had fun as well.

“My favorite part of the trip was snorkeling in the coral reef,” said seventh grader Darian Salehi. “I liked all of the different species we saw: dolphins, stingrays, and much more.”  

“It was cool to see all of the species of fish and coral that we studied in real life,” added seventh grader Maddie Dominick.

“I wasn’t expecting the boat rides to be so much fun,” said fellow seventh grader Carter Smith.

Ms. Featherston
Seventh grader Brady Quinn is all set to take a dive into the ocean and go snorkeling.

Along with the snorkeling excursions (one was even at night!), the students participated in hands-on labs with living creatures as well as classes with the facility’s staff. All of these activities helped the students connect with the work they had put into their field guides prior to the trip.

“I learned about different species of fish and how to classify them by their shape, behavior, [and] patterns,” said Salehi.

“The field guide was much more detailed and there were a lot more requirements for the students before they went, as well when they came back,” said Oster.  “It’s actually part of their final exam this year,” she said.

The food in the facility’s cafeteria wasn’t bad either. “My expectations were exceeded” said seventh grader Dylan Richman. “The food was great!”

Overall, the trip was a success, and a great way to end the quarter for the seventh graders as they learned about Florida’s coastal sea life alongside their friends during the Middle School’s last field trip of the year.