There were shrieks, tears and 23 wide-eyed faces as Marcia Bess’ second-grade class filed onto a sport fishing boat in Port San Luis on Wednesday for a floating marine lab field trip with the Central Coast Aquarium.
Many of the 23 students from Oceano Elementary School had never been on a boat before, Bess said, making the field trip a “once-in-a-lifetime” sort of experience.
“At our school, these kids don’t have the chance to get on a boat or cut open a squid,” Bess said, noting she has taken other classes on this trip twice before. “I just love the exposure — anything to give the exposure to marine biology for these kids.”
Bess said she is currently teaching the children about marine biology in class, but that the hands-on experience they gain through this field trip is incomparable.
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“I can’t teach this stuff from a book,” Bess said. “No matter how much I love marine biology.”
The Central Coast Aquarium regularly hosts these floating labs in which students are taken out on 55-foot sport fishing vessel, The Patriot, and taught about the bay’s history and ecology.
Starting this year, the students were required by the U.S. Coast Guard to wear a Type 1 commercial lifejacket on all of the trips, which the Central Coast Aquarium did not have. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. recently donated 40 of those lifejackets to the program.
Sporting the new jackets, the students on Wednesday’s field trip agreed the most exciting activity was the chance to “trawl” for sea life by throwing a large net over the side of the boat, dredging it through the sand for a few minutes and then pulling the net back over and examining what they have caught.
“I found a flat fish!” Jose Martinez, 7, proudly exclaimed after his group had a turn to look over their catches. Martinez said he had never been on a boat before Wednesday, but was looking forward to the next time he could go on one.
Angela Espinoza, 9, said the trip was dampened by losing her sunglasses over the edge of the boat, but in spite of that, getting the chance to hold the fish they caught was “really fun.”
“It was a little gross at first, but I got to touch 10 fish,” she said. “Five big ones and five small ones.”
By the end of the trip, none of the students were afraid of the ship anymore, with many of them saying they wanted to go back on.
“I was scared when we first got on, cause it was shaky,” said Bastian Cisneros, 7, who had never been on a boat before. “But it was fun.”