NEW BEDFORD — Kids are getting down and dirty with hands-on activities through Sea Lab’s summer program.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from Woods Hole Laboratory arrived at the school in the South End with a truck load of fish for advanced levels to dissect. Ranging from flounder to mackerel to butterfish, students learned to look at both the external and internal characteristics to determine its diet based on stomach contents.
“Based on how big the mouth is, and how sharp the teeth is, the bigger the diet,” said Mia Colangelo, a rising ninth-grader.
Simone Bourgeois, Sea Lab facilitator, was thrilled to include NOAA in the curriculum.
“To offer Sea Lab opportunities to measure, weight and analyze contents, it’s a pathway for the future, to have our students participate in the analysis of fish on Buzzards Bay,” Bourgeois said.
Two biological science technicians, Christine Kircun and Josh Dayton, were helping students identify difference between fish. Kircun said NOAA is a large part of the fishing industry, and New Bedford a large fishing port.
“Hands-on is always a great experience,” Kircun said. “We provide a lot of fish and unique opportunities. This is what we do on the boat. Knowing that NOAA is here is outreach as postsecondary students think about internships.”
Dayton, a Sea Lab alum, said it’s good to be back and working with the kids. He was most impressed with the students that asked good questions who were engaging in the material.
Summer programming runs through Aug. 13, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. It serves a wide age range, from rising or completed second-grade level to rising or completed ninth-grade level. During the academic year, Sea Lab serves only grades 4 through 9. The summer program gives students at the younger levels exposure to science, technology, arts, engineering and math (STEAM) curriculum.
Grades 2 and 3, classified as level one, are exposed to marine and aquaculture studies, space science, life science and physical science. Grade 4, level two, gains nautical knowledge, such as life houses and lifeboats, as well as meteorology and global tectonics. Grade 5, level three, begins dissection and is introduced to the construction of bridges and reptile animals. Grade 6, level 4, brushes up on global tectonics, volcanoes, seismology, earthquakes and dabble in shark studies and sailing. Grade 7, level 5, covers in-depth physical science, crystals, volcanoes, snorkel instruction and weather readings. Grade 8 learns more about ethology and dissecting. Grade 9 dives deeper into the framework of the program: design, engineering, technology and aquaculture and crew.
All lessons and activities are hands-on for all grade levels to get students away from textbooks and into exploring.
Bourgeois said because of the advanced science content, students attending the program are approximately two years above the average grade level.
“There’s no school anywhere like Sea Lab,” she said.
Enrollment has taken a hit from the pandemic. In previous summers, approximately 360 students were enrolled. In 2020, that number dropped to about 280 students involved in distance learning. This year, the same number will be returning. Bourgeois observed that many parents are still afraid to send their children to summer programs.
Genders are fairly equal in enrollment, however, with approximately 52% female and 48% male.
There are about 50 staff members, including 12 interns from college or high school levels. Many interns are alum of the program and have come back to help younger generations.
Ty Spencer, a sophomore at Gordon College and a 2020 NBHS graduate, said he went through the program himself. He even has family members in the program this year.
“I wanted to come back and give back,” Spencer said. “The program really contributed to my education.”
Donna Kirby-Blanchette, level one grade 3 teacher, spreads her enthusiasm to the kids.
“I hook the kids in the third grade,” she said. “I make sure they learn a lot but love the science.”
She said her goal is to spark curiosity and interact with the kids. Most of all, she makes sure they have fun and really like it. One morning, she brought the kids down to the beach so they could act as meteorologists, predicting the weather for the afternoon. Their conclusion? It would rain because of the heavy fog and humidity.
Seal Lab summer programming is tuition-based and not part of the NBPS summer programming. For New Bedford residents, the cost is $400 for six weeks; non-residents $500 for six weeks.
Standard-Times staff writer Kerri Tallman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ktallman_SCT for links to recent articles.
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