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Middle schoolers soak up marine biology while aboard ship (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Oct. 18, 2013 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

Teressa Torres, center, holds a jellyfish as other Travis Middle School sixth-graders crane their necks to see while the students look at different sea creatures the captain caught during Friday's field trip with the Floating Classroom Program in Port Lavaca. The captain of the ship explained the species of jellyfish had a very weak sting that could only be felt on the lips and encouraged brave students to give it a smooch.

A WHALE OF A TALE

The origins of the R.V. Karma are rooted in a near-death experience from its former owner Rick Corn, who donated his shrimping boat to the Texas Sea Grant Extension Program.

Corn, a lifelong shrimper before retirement, was at sea on another boat when he almost drowned.

Once he recovered from the accident, Corn immediately set out to purchase a second shrimp boat, which he named Karma.

He believed it was karma that saved his life.

The Texas Sea Grant program has steered away from changing the boat's name because it is considered to be bad luck.

Source: Whitney Curry, R.V. Karma captain

THE TEKS

Here's an excerpt from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for sixth-grade science.

"(b) Knowledge and skills.

(1) Scientific investigation and reasoning. The student, for at least 40 percent of instructional time, conducts laboratory and field investigations following safety procedures and environmentally appropriate and ethical practices. The student is expected to:

(A) demonstrate safe practices during laboratory and field investigations as outlined in the Texas Safety Standards; and

(B) practice appropriate use and conservation of resources, including disposal, reuse, or recycling of materials."

Source: Texas Education Agency

More Educational Support

A $25,000 Alcoa Foundation grant also funds a High School Robotics Program, Travis Middle School Water Watchers, Texas Scholars and new equipment to enhance campus science labs.

Source: Calhoun School District

PORT LAVACA - Teressa Torres pursed her lips with hesitation before kissing a jellyfish fresh from Lavaca Bay on Friday morning.

The sixth-grader was one of 20 Travis Middle School students aboard the R.V. Karma, the Floating Classroom Program operated by the Texas Sea Grant Extension Program and Texas AgriLife Extension.

The Alcoa Foundation, in partnership with the Calhoun school district's CCISD Partners in Education, contributed $6,000 to help pay for the Floating Classroom Program's cost.

Over the past week, 350 Calhoun students took part in the program.

Robin Sonsel, district science coordinator, said the program aligns perfectly with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for sixth grade.

"This a good age for them to soak everything in," Sonsel said. "This is worth the time they're spending away from the classroom."

Calhoun students were on the water for about an hour and a half on each of the 18 trips made in the last week.

With the coming changes in graduation requirements attached to House Bill 5, Sonsel said this sort of partnership fits into the new criteria for community partnerships.

Under the new requirements, once students begin their ninth-grade year, they have to choose one of five endorsement tracks.

The Alcoa Foundation plans to continue sponsoring education initiatives throughout the 2013-14 school year to pique students' interest in the science, technology, engineering and math endorsement track, according to the news release.

"If I can get one person to get on a career path today, then we can consider this trip a success," Sonsel said.

Teressa, 11, listened intently as Russ Miget, Texas Sea Grant Extension Program Floating Classroom Program coordinator, explained where marine biology intersects with stem cell research.

Miget used the regenerative nature of starfish as an example.

"I'm going to grow up and try to find the gene that grows back both arms," Teressa said.

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