Snorkeling, Kayaking, Squid Dissecting. Wait, Squid Dissecting?
(A Student’s P.O.V.)
The seventh grade class enjoyed educational, spiritual, and just plain amazing fun on this “totally awesome” two-day trip on the Joshua Expedition tour in Key Largo, with tour guides Tate, Kim, and Michael on May 7th and 8th.
We had a blast on the Shallow Bay Exploration, as well as kayaking and squid dissecting. Yes, squid dissecting. On the first day of the trip after arriving, Mr. Michael Ellis and Mrs. Laura Quinn, the trip’s group leaders, separated us into three groups: Groups A, B, and C.
Group A went on the Shallow Bay Exploration, where we received nets and buckets to catch “critters” on the shallows of a small beach where we caught multiple crabs, mollusks, jellyfish, and even a puffer fish! Student Jenna Slade, or “nature girl,” as her friends commonly called her on the trip, caught a puffer fish that was swimming by some sea sponges.
Meanwhile, Group B went kayaking; where many of us hadn’t gone kayaking before. Let’s just say it was a very wet experience for some; and for those who were quite relaxed in their surroundings, they got to salute the fallen kayaks and the students scrambling to get back in.
In the shallow water, some people in Group A saw a nurse shark cruising in the water. Tate, one of the tour guides, had told us about how the red mangroves were his favorite out of the white, red, and green mangroves, because in order to get the salt out of the leaves, one of them had to die so the others could live. Now doesn’t that sound familiar? Could it be like how Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we could live? Everyone thought that was a pretty cool story and it opened up conversations along the way.
Back on shore, near the picnic tables, Group C was left with the task of dissecting a dead squid with Kim. Our job was simple, but a bit smelly. Without receiving any gloves, but given a knife, scissors, and a pair of tweezers, we went to work; some of us better than others. The rest is, well, like a picture from a girls and guys book on science: boys signing on to dissect the giant squid while some of the girls were making faces and saying, “Oh, gross!” But really, most of the girls behaved admirably considering the scientific specimen.
Later, we were allowed to swim freely in the small beach were we goofed around playing games. “I think it was great as social walls were taken down,” said science teacher Ms. Castagna. “I loved observing the volleyball circle of about thirty kids that formed naturally in the water that day. There was a sense of unity.”
After all of our groups had rotated and had time to swim and have lunch, we were taken back to the hotel to shower and have dinner. After that, we got on the buses again to go view a live feeding frenzy involving many tarpon, sharks, and even sea gulls that were getting a little too close to the snapping tarpon. The hungry fish were just out of reach as the sea gulls swooped down and back up again, not getting any fish. I guess it’s tough being a sea gull.
That night we were to go to the hotel pool for swim tests in preparation for what was to come the following day. Everyone passed the test with “swimming colors.” Later we were able to hang around in the pool and listened as Tate shared a small devotion about the marvelous things in creation.
Waking up at five-thirty in the morning the next day, was no easy task; but everyone seemed to be ready for what proved to be an amazing day out on the ocean. Our group was divided into two boats: The Dolphin and The Sundance. And in no time we were all snorkeling in the ocean where barrier reefs were about ten to fifteen feet below. There we saw Jesus—a statue that is. It was covered in fire coral except at the hands, where we were allowed to touch. “Only the hands,” Tate told us. “Or else you’ll have a very religious experience.” Seventh grade history teacher, Mrs. Larson took that as her cue and decided not to go down to see Jesus because she said, “I touch Him everyday!”
As our field trip was coming closer to an end, we were taken to two different shops to buy souvenirs and Mother’s Day presents for the upcoming Sunday. There, we also enjoyed drinking milkshakes and feeding tarpon, where some of the guys got a bit too close and personal with the four-foot long fish. Luke Niles, a student that went on the trip, was bitten by one of the tarpon and had just one thing to say, “It got me.” Seventh grade Bible teacher, Mr. Collins said that it just felt like a bad scrape when he was also bitten. “That Mr. Collins not only stuck his hand in a fish, but lived to tell about it,” said Mrs. Larson with a chuckle.
Late Friday afternoon, the group saw their venture to the Keys come to a slow stop as they were sent back to the buses for an almost quiet ride back home. Some feel as though they never went at all, as the two days went by so quickly. But even though going back to school the next Monday proved to be an exercise that perhaps brought mainland Florida to an extreme focus, leaving the Keys in a distant memory—it will not be one quickly forgotten by any of us.
She Said, She Said…
(A Teacher’s P.O.V.)
The Keys. Class trip. Mother-teenage daughter bonding time. Enough Said. Nothing gets a teacher and an ocean lover at that, rushing harder to get her beach tote and suntan lotion out than a call to chaperone her daughter’s seventh grade class trip to the Florida Keys. Although getting up at four o’clock in the morning wasn’t too cool, the anticipation of the days ahead packed enough adrenaline to see us all leave the Calvary Chapel gates on time by 6:00am to begin our adventure.
The assignment was simple: keep the students safe, and make sure they have a good time while maintaining good behavior. And the itinerary that came with those orders? Taking a note from my daughter’s journal—”totally awesome.” Snorkeling, kayaking, squid dissecting… wait, squid dissecting? The thought brought me back to my own high school science class—a classroom memory I had no desire to repeat. “You don’t need to touch the squid,” affirmed high school science teacher and trip coordinator, Laura Quinn at the chaperone’s meeting a few days before we left, and her word was good enough for me.
So, with two school buses, a van and a truck as part of our road trip caravan, we were on our way to the Florida Keys to explore God’s creation. Maybe it’s the whole idea of a road trip that gets kids all excited and adults carefree, but in a matter of minutes the buses were ignited with pure synergy. “I loved the fellowship and bonding that took place between the students, parents, and teachers,” said middle school science teacher, Holly Castagna. “Everyone seemed to get along and new friendships were made.” And that very well describes what happened during those two glorious days of our “sweet getaway.”
Middle school Bible teacher, Marty Fanning, was driving our bus and as we got to Key Largo, all we could see on either side of the road were clear, warm, impossibly blue-green waters. Boy, could God paint or what! “The trip was laced with creation lessons and an evening devotion,” commented Holly, who was happy to see her classroom lessons alive in this way. “We are currently doing a chapter on oceans and to talk about the coral reef one day in class and be swimming in it the next is amazing!”
Holly, along with the other teachers saw that it is good from time to time to get out of the school’s four walls and go on a field trip. The Joshua Expeditions crew provided a great “classroom to the field” experience. Terri Yeago, one of the parents who chaperoned the trip saw God doing a marvelous thing in the lives of our students as they listened and learned from the tour guides. “Of all the trips I’ve taken since 3rd grade, this by far, was the best. The three guides from Joshua Expeditions really made the difference. Their knowledge was like none I have ever experienced before. Each time they spoke to teach the kids about the subject, they emphasized God’s creation in it. In addition, they would make it fun and test the kids about what they had just learned to re-emphasize it.”
The kids had fun but so did the adults. As the night began to fall and the students were taking their swimming lessons in the pool, deep conversation among the adults began to surface. The main topic: Key Lime pie. I mean, you just don’t go to the Florida Keys without eating authentic Key Lime pie. This pie is considered the official pie of the Florida Keys. Aficionados of key lime pies argue that the filling of authentic key lime pie is a light yellow and science and Bible teachers alike were about to prove this hypothesis.
So, with nothing but good intentions, on this quest went Marty Fanning, David Collins and Holly Castagna. After driving for miles, they stopped at Mile Marker 100—where they found a little shop about to close down for the night. Marty went in first with one mission in mind as he asked, “Pie?” The three workers raised their eyebrows almost in sync, perhaps wondering if this man had lost his marbles on the way in. Hardly undefeated, Marty proved again, “Pie?” to which one of the waitresses folding the neat paper napkins for the next business day replied, “Sorry, we’re closed. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
Marty came closer and said, “Money is no object, I assure you. We have traveled very far for your Key Lime pie…pie?” The waitress stepped back with eyes wide open, but after a moment of silence she conceded, “Okay, how many do you want?”
“We want two pies,” quipped Marty, while David and Holly stood motionless nodding their support, afraid to add a single word lest they were escorted out the door without the pies. As it turned out, the waitresses prepared the pies with whip cream on top and Marty and his team walked out tall with big smiles on their happy faces. As they arrived back at the hotel, they gathered the adults who listened to the story, as told by David with pure “mission impossible” flair. The adult chaperones were spotted crying and clutching their sides from laughing so hard. This chaperone still has a twitch on her side from that night’s comedy relief.
Something else left us smiling the next day. As we were about to return home, we stopped at this place called Robbies, where students got a chance to feed some fish, drink delicious, cold smoothies and shop around the small kiosks. One of the clerks of the shops asked us how many students had just gone through. When we told them 70 plus students had just gone by, they began to applaud the kids and told them what good kids they were. “Momma Larson was proud,” said middle school history teacher, Beverly Larson, and of course, we had to tell them to check out Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and Pastor Bob’s sermon online! Making disciples is this school’s mission, and we were now on the mission field.
Two days in Key Largo were simply not enough, as there is so much to explore and discover in God’s awesome creation. The charm of the Florida Keys and the local flavor and feel was not lost on anyone, either. And as we stood there, taking a group photo of the students, laughing with them over a fallen flip flop into the ocean (you had to be there)… the sights and sounds of the Keys were already beckoning us to come back, perhaps with next year’s seventh grade class…maybe sooner.