Siuslaw Elementary School students from Susan DeVries’ third-grade class recently had the chance to get out of the classroom and onto the water for a unique educational opportunity.
DeVries and her class took a trip to Newport as part of an Oregon Coast Education Program (OCEP) project initiated by STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) members Jim Grano and Dennis King.
The purpose of the trip was to familiarize the youngsters with the important role the ocean and the coastal environs have played in developing the culture of Florence and the surrounding area.
An additional benefit was the chance to get outside and enjoy a trip that expands the classroom to include the coastal waterways and the inhabitants of those waters.
“Susan and I continued an OCEP project started by Dennis King and me last spring that involved using OCEP lesson plans for developing units of study. In August, we attended the four-day ‘Finding the Hook’ workshop in Newport that informed and inspired the project,” Grano said. “We were able to use OCEP and Bandon Submarine Cable Council funds to take 24 students and 12 chaperones, including Dennis and me, on the Marine Discovery Boat Tour’s two-hour Exploration Voyage on Yaquina Bay.”
Marine Discovery Tours is a regional leader in coordinating educational tours for Oregon public schools. A 65-foot long boat named The Discovery acts as an interactive classroom and floating laboratory for the students and their teachers.
Participants are able to observe and interact with marine creatures from small invertebrates to whales and larger animals, depending on the time of year and the conditions at sea.
The Discovery is equipped with all types of technologically sophisticated equipment that allows students to “see” the ocean floor using sonar and learn how the ship navigates safely through the water.
There are also opportunities to observe sea birds and sea lions, porpoises, pelicans and bald eagles in their natural habitat.
Before the trip, guest speakers visited the class and talked to the students about different aspects of the marine culture that is an important part of the history of Florence.
STEP member Brian Hudson spoke on the commercial history of Florence’s port, the Port of Siuslaw; Siuslaw Middle School Principal Andy Marohl discussed commercial salmon fishing; and Mapleton resident and retired Coast Guardsman Wayne Gage talked about the partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and fisheries.