In December, the sixth-grade students from Adelante Charter School took a once-in-a-lifetime boat trip to the Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay. With community support, they fundraised to make this trip a reality.

Students participated in hands-on learning with intelligent and energetic CIMI staff members Jeff and Kenny. They were able to go kayaking (for most it was their first time) and explored new areas along the shoreline of the island. While kayaking they saw fish jumping out of the water as they tried to escape underwater predators, marine mammals who came in for a closer look at the students, invertebrates and numerous birds.

Students learned interesting facts about fish and invertebrates, for example how they can wedge themselves into small holes to hide. They discovered a lot about plankton and algae, for example how the air bladders of kelp are filled with carbon monoxide to keep them afloat. They dove into the ocean and explored the diverse underwater life. They were able to snorkel four times during the five days of the trip, often in the rain and once at night using flashlights and glow sticks which they turned off to observe bioluminescent plankton in the dark water. Students spotted many of the creatures they had studied, including Garibaldi, sheepshead, señorita, blacksmith, opal-eye, lobster, leopard sharks, manta rays, shovel-nosed guitar fish, sea urchins and more!

The sixth-graders got their hands dirty with ink from squid during a dissection lab. They learned about the squid life cycle and how to tell the difference between male and female squid. If the substance inside the top of the hood looks like Elmer’s glue, it is male. If it looks more like Vaseline in color, it is female. Students removed the eyes, ink sacs, pens, beaks and esophagus as they learned more about these amazing creatures.

Overall, Adelante students learned colossal amounts of knowledge about the ocean on Catalina Island while having an amazing, mind-opening experience. Students wish to thank all the sponsors, families, friends, instructors and everyone else who helped make this dream come true. It was an experience they will never forget.

— Michael Macioce is a sixth-grade teacher at Adelante Charter School.