The sixth graders of the North Fork Montessori at Crawford experienced a once-in-a-lifetime educational trip from May 6-12.

The class of 14 attended a five-day session at the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) at Toyon Bay on Catalina Island. The institute is an outdoor science school, providing hands-on education through labs and field activities in marine science and island ecology. The institute specializes in presenting a dynamic outdoor educational experience for fourth through 12th grade students from public and private schools. The students stay on the island and participate in the STEM-based program.

STEM is a curriculum which integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

The sixth graders were accompanied by the principal of the school, Bill Eyler, teachers, Esther Alsum, Jenny Chavez, and parents, Steve Hill and Sven Edstrom. This excursion closes out these students' time at Montessori before they disperse to other Delta County schools (Montessori ends with the sixth grade).

For some of the students, it was their most extended exposure to a marine environment. Some of the students fundraised with the help of their parents to pay for the trip. The school also provided scholarships to assure that every sixth grader could share in the experience. They stayed in dorms for most of their stay on the island, but the accommodations for the first night were aboard the famous Queen Mary ocean liner, docked at Long Beach, Calif.

CIMI provides a learning environment with all the bells and whistles. Labs and field activities included learning about fish, sharks, invertebrates, marine mammals, plankton and algae. The kids snorkeled, kayaked by day and by night, had marine ecology and astronomy hikes and enjoyed evening campfires. They came back excited, sun-browned, with a whole new appreciation of marine science and the natural world.

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