Project Marine Discovery
Flippin Middle School has had the privilege to take 8th grade students on a learning expedition to Biloxi and the Gulf Coast for the past four years toward the end of each school year. We have received donations from various sources to help cover costs for students who were in need of help during previous years. This year Ranger Boats has given the Flippin Middle School $2500.00 toward Project Marine Discovery to help with the scholarships and extra costs. The students are given an opportunity to participate in a fundraising activity in the spring to offset costs, also. The students work throughout the year researching and journaling about the Gulf area. They figure the mileage and transportation cost of the trip and the various routes that can be taken to arrive at the destination.They research the marine life and gather background information on the activities that they will encounter while on the trip. The students work hard to meet the established criteria (grades, attendance and behavior) to get to be able to go on the trip.
The students and teachers attending Project Marine Discovery leave early on a Monday morning from the middle school and arrive on Monday evening in Biloxi, Mississippi. They check into the dorm rooms where they stay through to Friday morning. They attend several scheduled programs and activities throughout the week that connects with the research and journaling that they did throughout the year on the area. The students go to the University of Southern Mississippi Marine Education Center where they learn about the estuary and marine life of the estuary. Each year the students get to kayak in the Mississippi Sound and they also take a trawling expedition in the Miss Peetsy B (Boat donated to the University by Jimmy Buffet) to look at the sea life of the area. We have collected multiple species of fish, a stingray, various crabs and shrimp. One year the students dissected small sharks and another year they used a dichotomous key to identify marine life. They have looked at the microorganisms they have netted through microscopes. The students experience hands-on what lives in and around the gulf area by walking in the water, netting living organisms, and identifying them. They enjoying watching the various types of birds fly and dip into the water for food. They get to see real life examples of a different ecosystem than what they are used to experiencing. The students also get to ride on a ferry where they get to see dolphins following alongside to Ship Island where they learn about Fort Massachusetts. They tour the fort where they see cannons that were used in battle. They see where the cannon balls were made and where items were stored. At Ship Island, they also learn that Islands are continually moving and they see how the Island started and the point that it is at currently. They walk around the perimeter of the island looking at the different types of marine life on and around the island. At the end of the trip, they get to swim on the south side of the island which is actually the ocean side and not the gulf. One evening consists of a bonfire on the beach with s’mores, and fun and games. Another activity takes the group to Mobile, Alabama where they get to tour the Battleship Alabama and the submarine USS Drum. They also get to visit the aviation museum while they are there. The itinerary also includes a trip to the Explorium in Mobile, AL. Here the students have a lot of hands on experiences dealing with inventions, building, movement, light, and the human body. The entire group participates in a Family Style dinner situation and dessert at each meal to foster community and family between students and teachers. The students also get to go souvenir shopping. Friday morning the group gets up early and starts the trip home arriving back at the Flippin Middle School around 6:00 in the evening.
Michelle Curtis (Counselor): “ I was so proud of our group and very impressed when a souvenir shop owner told me that out of all of the groups that had come through her business, our group was the best behaved and the most mannerly.” We have gotten comments like this about our group each year that we have gone with them.”
Kylee Stoner (FMS Teacher): “We hear statements from students every year about how this is their first big trip, first time out of the state, first experience with kayaking, first time seeing the beach/Gulf, and so much more. I was once one of these students - experiencing travel only through the opportunities provided by school trips - and I am honored to be a part of providing our students with a similar learning opportunity.”
Kristen Rodriguez (FMS Teacher): When starting this trip, we wanted to provide ourstudents an opportunity to see and experience a different part of the US than where we live. This trip has provided our students this and much more. Each year, they have a chance to go for a week on a school field trip where they learn and spend time with classmates. As a teacher, it is neat to see kids be kids and learn alongside one another. I hope that we can continue this trip for years to come.