Sixth graders at Jackson Walnut Park Schools traveled from Newton to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) on Cape Cod as part of a two-day study of marine life, the impact of environmental and federal regulatory changes, and the natural beauty of the seashore. The annual trip is one part of the Grade 6 “Ocean Project.” This year it was the first overnight trip.
Arriving in Woods Hole, students visited the country’s oldest Aquarium (1885) that showcases a six-foot Leatherback Turtle, unusual fish tanks, interactive information stations, a giant relief of George’s Bank to Cape Cod, and a “two-finger touch” fish tank. Lunch was enjoyed along the harbor under sparkling blue skies before heading to the WHOI Marine Biology Research Labs and Library for an engaging tour. In this second largest marine institute in the world, students held starfish, conch embryos, sea urchins, and skate egg cases as the tour guide described how the study of marine life leads to an understanding of human life and diseases. Seawater tanks hold octopus, squid, veterinary marine life, horseshoe crabs, and more. In the library, the tour guide discussed the works of Nobel Prize winners connected to WHOI and collaborative work with marine biological stations around the globe. “The world is our lab,” she explained. Walking to the harbor, she talked about the Valden Sundial and the importance of Rachel Carson’s work. At the WHOI Ocean Science Discovery Center, students saw a compelling video from the Alvin of life on the ocean floor and explored the museum that includes WHOI’s discovery of the Titanic and the Remus Shark Cam with teeth marks from a great white. The group then headed to Camp Greenough, Yarmouth for an overnight that included a campfire with s’ mores.
The second day of the “Ocean Project” Cape Cod excursion connected a study of marine science with the arts, shoreline storm damage, and federal protection laws. On West Dennis Beach students divided into groups of four, rotating activities with a lead teacher. Mr. Waarich took them on beach walks to discover marine life washed ashore, Mrs. Niden gave photography lessons, Mrs. Behenna engaged them in a poetry project, and under the artistic tutelage of Ms. Simone, each student created a watercolor depicting shore, sea, and sky.
After a hearty House of Pizza lunch, the group boarded Monomoy Island Excursions for a seal adventure cruise on the catamaran Perseverance, an exciting “Nantucket sleighride” with the winds and whitecaps. The trip took them along the coastline to Chatham, across the Monomoy breach to Monomoy South Island’s outer banks to view some of the 200,000 seals that breed during the winter. The guides pointed out sites and birds and gave historical background to storm damage along Monomoy and the impact of the seal population, and fun facts about seals. The Perseverance idled just beyond the many colonies of seals and the sixth graders loved the spirited seals that swam to the boat. As the catamaran hit full throttle on the trip back, one student shouted out, “This was the best trip!” Combined with their day at Woods Hole, it was an amazing learning experience. To everyone’s delight, tour guides and hosts at every site complemented the JWP students on their courtesy, intelligence, curiosity, and thoughtfulness.