Dolphin Explorer Class
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A Walk on the Beach

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends…The mind can never break off from the journey.” ~ Pat Conroy

My favorite long-time family excursion is spent aboard the Dolphin Explorer Boat in Marco Island, Florida. The trip offers its patrons up-close encounters with native birds and a chance to see manatee and dolphins playing and feeding in their natural surroundings. Before returning to the marina, the crew navigates through a portion of the 10,000 Islands to find its landing spot on Keywadin Island for shelling and swimming. The 3 ½ hour excursion is engaging, educational and has transformed my outlook as a teacher. This summer, as my family and I were enjoying the scenic ride aboard the Explorer, the naturalist aboard shared valuable information about the dolphins, manatees, birds of prey and mangrove forests we were seeing. I was excited to learn as much as I could, knowing that I would be able to use this information to enhance lessons about this ecosystem for my students.

Dolphin Explorer team
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The Dolphin Explorer Team strives to promote wildlife education through its Environmental Studies Program which allows teachers to bring real-world learning into the classroom. It is a Program I have been involved with since 2011 and would highly recommend. Students learn directly from a marine biologist whose messages educate children about conservation and how to protect wildlife from a global perspective. To illustrate, the classroom worked on a simulated oil spill to better understand first-hand the devastating effects an oil spill has on the environment along with the difficulty and cost of the clean-up effort. While the connection between teaching reading and a dolphin research team might not seem like an intuitive relationship, my experience has shown that the link between the two activities has led to profound gains in student problem solving, reading and writing skills when applied to a real purpose.

The Program has established a new method of teaching for me.  My family and I look forward to our annual excursion with the Dolphin Explorer Team and their innovative use of technology now provides endless possibilities for incorporation into the classroom. Weekly Livestream events showcase the team of Dolphin Explorer experts and their wealth of knowledge.  More importantly, students are eager to enter my room and extend what they are learning in STEAM related projects and activities.

The concept of incorporating environmental education into the curriculum can be a daunting task but it is one I regret not initiating earlier in my teaching career.  The 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project’s Environmental Studies Program enhances classroom learning and makes the transition to teaching environmental lessons manageable and exciting for the students and teachers alike.  My lessons have evolved from traditional research based assignments to unique, exploratory sessions that encourage students to challenge themselves to become stewards of the environment.  If interested in joining the fun or to learn more, visit:  www.dolphinprojecteducation.org.

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