Monday, July 8, 2024

Adventures in Marine Biology: Sea Camp 2024

I had first learned about Sea Camp from a girl I went to Air Camp with a couple summers ago! I wasn't able to do a fun PD last summer, so I thought this sounded like fun to do this summer (although I really didn't know much about it, and didn't know what to expect).  As I always tell people, I don't sit still well!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

This morning was rough. I’d had a pretty bad migraine earlier in the week that left me sick and miserable the following day. On Friday, I spent the day with my brother and future sister-in-law as Luke was taking me to the airport in the AM. I could feel another one coming all day and was doing everything in my power to dissuade it (aside from taking medicine, because I didn’t want to deal with an upset stomach again). I was SO anxious about another migraine coming all night that I didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. I finally got up at 2:30A, even though I hadn’t planned on getting up until 3:15A, and took a med hoping it made the mild headache go away and didn’t give me a stomach ache. Chronic pain sucks, y’all. 

My brother brought me to the airport and I was through TSA lickety split! Which was funny because the day prior I realized I didn't have my KTN saved in my Southwest app, so PreCheck wasn't on my boarding pass. I added it to the app, then printed my boarding pass at the airport. Completely pointless because no one was in line for TSA anyway, but at least I could keep my shoes on and not have to take anything out of my bags! (I'll take the win).

ANYWAY, I hung out in the airport for two hours before boarding, playing games and reading. My flight was thankfully uneventful EXCEPT that I had the whole row to myself!! I love flying at 6AM. I slept the whole time.

I landed in Dallas around 8:30 and had an hour and a half layover before flying to Houston. My stomach was still unsettled because #anxiety so I didn't eat there. My flight to Houston was again uneventful.  I ended up hanging at the airport in Houston for a couple hours because the shuttle I had scheduled to take me to Galveston wasn't coming until 1. We weren't suppose to show up to camp until 5, so I had time to play with. I ended up finding a spot with really comfy chairs where you could watch airplanes and sat there until it was time to get the shuttle. 

The shuttle then took me to Galveston AFTER telling me he wasn't sure he would be able to get me to Pelican Island where I needed to go because there was problems with the bridge! As if I wasn't anxious enough. No worries though, we made it! I sat and read for a few hours in the dorm lobby while waiting for my room to be ready.

Eventually a couple other ladies showed up who were also counselors at camp this week. They grabbed me from my room and we went to Shrimp 'N Stuff for dinner. I had a fish taco and was glad I only ordered one - it was HUGE! But delicious! I would have loved to have eaten more! (As I proof this to publish two weeks later, I am STILL thinking about this taco). After eating we headed back to the dorms to get a good nights rest before day 1 of camp.

Sunday, June 23, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 1

I slept in! Until almost 7:30! This is a big feat for me. I got to have a lazy morning. I grabbed some Apple Jacks at the airport yesterday and ate those for breakfast, then took a shower and lounged around for a bit. I went to take a walk at 9:40 and boy was it hot! I checked the weather and it was already 84 degrees with a feels like temp of 98!! My walk only lasted 20 minutes, and I felt like I needed to shower again, but I took pictures of lots of things that made me smile!

We had a counselor meeting at 11 before going to lunch at the cafeteria. 

After lunch we had some chill time before check-in began at 2:00. There are 5 camps this week, so many families coming through to move their kiddos into the dorms.

Along with my co-counselor, my check-in duties were to greet the kids coming to my camp (Adventures in Marine Biology), collect any meds, distribute room keys, and answer questions regarding the week.

At 4:45 we gathered to take them all to dinner in the university cafeteria. After dinner, we had an all camp meeting to go over rules and expectations for the week. From there we split into our camps.

My camp did a couple activities first. 

  • They were split into 4 groups of 7 kids each - they needed to come up with a group name that was at least three words
  • They had to draw a picture of their favorite animal with their eyes closed. Then, they introduced themselves with their picture.
  • They had to come up with a new 'camp call' for us to use to get their attention. They decided on the popular "Waterfall" "Shhhh...."
Then we went over the schedule for the week before heading back to the dorms to make signs for our dorm doors, and then free time until bed time at 10.

Monday, June 24, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 2

I was on the dorm floor with our girls, so I had them up and moving by 7 so we could head straight to breakfast. After breakfast, we all met in the lounge of our dorm and walked down to the boat docks for a picture before splitting into two groups. My group started the morning with a nature walk. Our task was to find things in nature we could press in the plant press. While on our nature walk I was with the four girls in my small group and one of them lifted up a large palm that had fallen. We all saw something coiled underneath and were like "ew!" because we thought it was animal poo. Then the girl who lifted the branch said, "Is that a snake?!" and we all quickly backed away. I told the instructor by us and she wanted to see it because she loves snakes. I showed her where it was and then quickly backed away because NOPE! Turns out it was a water moccasin, and I was right to back away. We left that area soon after. 

We walked to our classroom and gave everyone a white piece of paper to lay their collections out on, then stacked the paper into the press. We will get our creations back on Thursday!

After the press, we went through a Prezi presentation about sharks. I was so impressed with how much these kids knew! They were naming pictures of sharks I had never heard it! (I am definitely not at space camp anymore!) 

Our other instructor joined us then for shark direction.  Each instructor dissected a shark, and the kids (and myself) got to touch whichever parts we wanted to. The coolest thing I thought was the eyeball because it was super hard like a marble. We found octopus tentacles in the intestines of one shark and a fish in the stomach of the other. 

Shark Eyeball

After shark dissection we played a quick game of camouflage. This is where each kid got a 2" x 2" square of paper and had to color it to match something in the room. They would tape it up while the instructors were in the hallway, and then the instructors would come in and have 5 minutes to find them all.

From there we went right to lunch and had some chill time at the dorms until our afternoon activity.

At 1:00 my small group met back in our dorm lobby to go to the boat. We walked down to the doc, signed the manifest, and got our life jackets. The boat captain went over the rules. When he went over "Abort Ship!" he ended it with "and then all we have to do is link arms and sing Kumbaya while we wait for the Coast Guard to rescue us. One of the kids asked, "what is Kumbaya?" and we all felt old.

We boarded the ship and set sail! The first stop was a ways out where we put in a net to go trawling. Trawling is basically throwing a weighted net off the back of the boat to see what you can catch. We left the net in the water for 20 minutes while we slowly cruised before taking it out to see what we caught. They captain and his crewmate reeled in the net and dumped it in a cooler they had prepped with water. We caught a catfish, two crabs, a bunch of anchovies, and another small-ish fish. The small-ish fish (whose species I can't remember) had a parasite in his mouth that was eating his tongue. Apparently the tongue grows back when the parasite leaves, so that was cool to see! After we looked at each organism we threw them back into the water. The kids got to throw the anchovies out for the seagulls - they loved that! (The kids AND the seagulls!)

Then we cruised for awhile and saw a bunch of dolphins, and the remains of the oil tanker SS Selma shipwreck, and a the Battleship Texas navy ship that they're currently restoring.

By the time we got back I was sunburned and tired! We headed to the dorm for a quick 30 minute rest before our pizza and pool party. At 5, we gathered back in the lobby for pizza before heading to the campus pool for a few hours. When I got to the pool we went straight for the pool chairs. Unfortunately, there was a small, three-inch step to get up to the pool chairs that I did not see because it blended into the rest of the pool deck. Well I managed to bash my big toe right into it. It is now jammed or broken or sprain and a very vibrant shade of purple!

After the pool, my co-counselor and I hung out for a bit until the kids had to be back to the dorms at 8:30, and then made a Target run because I needed socks and Aloe.

A shower was much needed after the hot day outside, as well as a good nights sleep!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 3

After getting the girls up at 7, we headed down to breakfast, then met at 8:15 in our dorm lobby so we could head down for our first activity of the day. We went to the classroom where the kids learned about crawfish (aka mudbugs/crayfish/crawdads), including their habitats. They were given a challenge to build a model crawfish habitat. There were three categories they could "win" in - tallest, most realistic, and most creative. But first, they needed to collect materials for their mudbug towers.

We took them down to Shell Beach with some trays where they collected shells and sediment to use to build. It was already quite toasty out!!

Then we headed back to the classroom and gave them 20 minute to build. They also needed to come up with a story behind the creation of their habitat. The creativity was awesome! Some of these kids I've gotten to work with this week have the best imagination! My personal favorite story included a natural disaster which resulted in the death of the crawdads that lived in the tower, which were now sitting on our counter so we could dissect them and see what we could learn.


Most Realistic

Most Creative

When the building and judging of the habitats was done, we moved on to dissecting the crawfish. The kids were put into pairs, given directions, then given pretty much free rein to dissect. They determined if their crawfish were male or female, found the heart (amongst other parts) and were amazed to learn that crawfish don't have brains!

After cleaning up the dissection, we watched a little of a marine animal National Geographic video before heading to lunch.

After lunch rec, we met back up with the kids in the lobby of the dorm to head back to the classroom for fish morphology. The kids learned about different fish and their parts and adaptations, then they got to do fish printing on their t-shirts. They had the choice to use rubber fish (turtles, frogs, etc.) or real ones, and they got to paint the fish, then press them onto their shirt. They could also use puff paint and stencils to add additional designs. 

We finished the National Geographic video, then took a long walk back to the dorms for a short break before gathering for dinner. 

After dinner, the kids had rec time where they played a game of Capture the Flag against the kids in the Shark camp. They had free time the rest of the night, so I took a group to the pool until it closed before coming back to shower and relax.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 4

After getting the kids up this morning and having breakfast, we met back in the lobby of the dorm so we could board the bus to Galveston Island State Park. Today’s first activity was salt marsh seining. I opted not to get into the water due to my vibrant purple big toe as I didn’t want to risk kicking anything and making it worse underwater.

When seining, the groups went out holding a large net. They had to do what’s called the Stingray Shuffle, which means that your feet stay on the ground and you just move them forward, shuffling. This prevents someone from stepping on stingray and having it bite you.

One of the kids was uncertain about going in because he was nervous about being stung by a jellyfish. I wandered with him on the beach as he collected hermit crabs and we spotted jellyfish in the water. 


Hermit Crabs

Soon after, one of the instructors brought out one of our campers that had been stung by a jellyfish, so I took her up to the first aid kit to pour vinegar on the spot to relieve the sting. 

Not too soon after another kid came out with jellyfish stings. I never got to see what was in any of the nets, because kids kept coming out with jellyfish stings! Eventually, everyone just came out of the water because things were not going so hot. I think about 10 kids got stung by jellyfish, and three of the four instructors/counselors. I did learn how to take care of a jellyfish sting at least! Pour vinegar to help relieve the sting, and then use a credit card or something of the sort to scrape the stingy stuff out (I can’t remember what the stingy stuff is called), pour on some salt water, then dump on some meat tenderizer. So random! 

It was too soon to head back to camp, so my co-counselor decided to take the kids on a walk. They made it not 5 feet into the grass when everyone started slapping themselves because there were mosquitoes everywhere. She continued to walk with them, but the rest of us adults stayed back on the cement. They didn’t get too far before they all turned around around and came back! We decided we would head back to camp a little early after all. 

We got on the bus and headed back to the dorms. Since the kids had just been in the sun and salt water, we had them go take a shower to help combat dehydration. Then we headed to lunch. 

After lunch, we got to do some tie-dying. I was surprised at how many kids had never done tie-dye before! It was a summer staple in my childhood. 

During our next activity, the kids got to learn about oysters via a presentation, and then they got to explore some oysters. They saw many of the things that lived inside oysters, such as crabs and shrimp. They were hoping to find pearls, but you only find pearls in one out of 1000 oysters. Someone who has been a part of the camp for the last 15 years said that for as long as they’ve been here, only one pearl had been found. 

The kids got to try an oyster if they wanted to. They shucked their oyster first, before pulled out the muscle and disconnecting the meat from the shell. We had saltine crackers to go with them as well as cocktail sauce. I was surprised at how many of the kids actually wanted to try the oysters. A lot of them made faces a few spit them out, a handful really enjoyed it and asked for another one. I did not try it. No way! Take me to ACME, I will eat all the oysters there!

We took a long walk on campus before heading back to the dorms for a short break before dinner. After dinner, the kids had rec where they played dodgeball. Then it was free time for the rest of the night.

Thursday, June 27, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 5

Yet again, I woke up before my alarm this morning. I think this has happened every day of camp. 

While I was sleeping last night, I was woken up by frantic knocking on my door. I panicked thinking that I had overslept and was late for meeting with the kids. I looked at my watch and saw that it was only 11:30PM. Then I panicked because I thought something must be wrong. There must be a fire or someone was hurt or some kind of emergency. I looked out my peep hole to find four of my girls standing in the hallway. I open the door and they told me that they thought their room was haunted! They said that water was dripping down a wall and a light that they didn’t turn on was on and they heard knocking, and then they looked on the Internet and "saw stuff." I told them to go to bed. 

We had breakfast at the cafeteria, then met at 8:15A to get on the bus and head back to Galveston Island State Park for beach cleanup. When we got there, we met with a lady from the organization called SPLASh. SPLASh collects garbage from the Galveston area beaches analyzes it to find what litter occurs most often. They found that typically the trash is bottle caps from things like water/soda bottles and styrofoam. The kids collected trash for about a half an hour before we cleaned up and headed back to camp. 

It was lunchtime when we returned, and then we had a little bit of free time before heading to the classroom for the afternoon.  Our lesson today was on marine mammals. Kids learned about different marine mammals and got to see some skulls from a sea lion, a polar bear and one more mammal I forgot. Then, they got to do the blubber investigation where they put their hand in a Ziploc bag coated in another Ziplock bag full of Crisco, then stick it in freezing cold water, and notice how they can’t feel the cold water. 

From there they were put into groups and had to work on their group project. Their group project was to create their own marine animal, give it a common name, scientific name, and list at least three fun facts about it. 

After the lesson, it was time to go to the beach. We met up in the lobby of the dorms with all of the other camps. After being given directions, we loaded up five buses and headed back to Galveston Island State Park. The kids got to swim for about an hour. I decided not to go in the water because I did not want to be stung by jellyfish. The kid were way braver than me. Many were stung, and they still went back in! 

I stayed on the shore and watched the kids interact with the marine life. One of my kids had brought a bucket and an aerator, and was trying to collect the sea animals to put in it and observe. He attracted quite an audience. They got a couple hermit crabs, but the most thing they were most excited about the eels. They had at least three eels they had found. I'm not sure where they found the first one, but I saw the second one stick its head out of the sand, and then the kids dug it out! It was a hard NOPE for me. I did some digging (ha) and I think what they found are called Shrimp Eels.

After swim time, we headed back up to the pavilions at the top of the beach for dinner. The counselors got to have snapper that the fishing camp had caught. It was taken to a local restaurant, (the same one I went to for dinner on Saturday), and cooked along with hush puppies, fries, and a delicious key lime pie. The campers all got to have hot dogs and chips.

After dinner, the rec crew took all the campers down to the beach to play some games while the counselors and the the rest of the staff got the s'more stuff ready. We put marshmallows on skewers and prepared the graham crackers and chocolate. I ended up having two s'mores. They were delicious.

At around 8:30 the mosquitos were coming out, so we headed back to camp for much needed showers and rest.

Friday, June 28, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 6

Our final day of camp. After getting everybody up and heading to breakfast, we met together in the lobby. We headed over to the campus bookstore so the kids could do some shopping. I got myself a nice Texas A&M sweatshirt. Then we headed to the classroom so kids could finish their final projects. They had to take the idea they came up with yesterday and make their final poster to present.  As counselors and instructors, we had to judge to decide who had the best animal and presentation. The winner would get to present at the closing ceremony that afternoon.

Winner: the Fangler Fish

From there, we boarded the bus to head to The Strand. The Strand is like the downtown area of Galveston. We went to a place called Stuttgarden for lunch. The kids had a choice of chicken tenders, grilled cheese, cheeseburger, or hamburger. I had a cheeseburger.

After lunch, we headed to the The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum. We spent an hour there, letting the kids explore at their own pace.

After the museum, we split into four groups. The instructors and rec stuff took our kids out to go shopping on the street. My co-counselor and I went shopping together a little bit away from the main road to get away from all the noise. We went to the Galveston Bookshop first, where I found a nice ghosts in Galveston book which is my favorite souvenir to buy when I travel. I also got T-shirts for the kiddos at another shop. Our last stop was for candy and ice cream at the ever-popular La Kings.

After a couple hours on The Strand, the group met back to to head back to campus to clean up and get ready for dinner. After dinner was our closing ceremony. The winning team got to present their animal poster and each camper was presented with a certificate.

Some campers left after closing ceremony, but others elected to stay until Saturday for check out. I took a couple girls to the pool until it closed, then came back to the dorms and  showered and started to get packed up. 

I can honestly say that I had a really great week, but it will be nice to get home to my bed, my shower and some clean clothes. Also to escape this Texas heat and humidity!

Saturday, June 29, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 7

Today was the official final day of camp. I took the camp shuttle back to the airport with the four campers who were flying home. After getting the campers luggage checked and tagged, we went to Starbucks because we were all starving after the 6:30AM departure from the dorms. They all flew out before me, so I stayed with the campers until they had all boarded before heading to my gate. 

It was a toasty week, but I had a lot of fun! I could definitely see myself doing this again next year, if not for many summers to come. I'd love to try out the other camps offered!

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