Sometimes they catch lobsters, sometimes seahorses, sometimes stingrays. But they always catch something on the Marine Science Floating Lab that helps children connect with and learn about the plants and animals in the sea.
The San Diego County Office of Education charters two large fishing boats for the floating lab, which takes thousands of students out into the San Diego Bay from November to May each year. Last year, more than 8,000 students went out on one of the two boats with the program, which has been operating as part of the Outdoor Education program for three decades.
As many as 40 students go out with teachers and parent chaperones on the four-hour excursions. While out in the bay, they help the boat crew drop a net to pull up some of the sea dwellers. Instructors then teach the children about each of the creatures they caught as well as some others caught earlier.
After that, the students get into groups and take turns at different stations on the boat, where they get to touch some of the day's catch, measure sea depth and temperature, analyze some of the mud from the bottom of the bay and look at plankton through a microscope.
The hands-on lessons help science come alive for the students.