Field trips bring hands-on experience to students

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Alice ISD seventh-grade students gathered around the school bus Monday afternoon, loading up for a trip to the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi as part of the district's Summer Science Camp program.

Camp coordinator and Alice High School teacher Victor Escamilla said the purpose of the camp is to expose the students to science outside of the classroom and allow them to have a hands-on experience during the summer.

"They'll be collecting materials and data, whether it's with a professional biologist or zoologist. They will actually get to see the scientists' work first-hand and see how they conduct themselves in the field," Escamilla said.

The camp for seventh-grade students began last week.

On Tuesday, students visited the Corpus Christi Museum and then the Columbus ships on Thursday.

For last Friday's event, the students traveled to the Padre Island National Sea Shore and conducted a ghost crab study. This past weekend, the students went to Port Aransas for a trip on the University of Texas Marine Science vessel called the Katie, where they conducted some data programs as part of a project.

Beginning this week, the students will take turns travelling to the aquarium, going behind the scenes and conducting a Wonderful Wetlands Tour, where they will collect data in the field and do some water sampling.

The class is comprised of 36 students heading into seventh grade. A younger group of students heading into fifth grade participated in a science camp earlier this month, which involved more lab activities at AHS.

Matthew Ramirez, 12, was a little nervous at first about science camp this year, but he does love learning about science and animals. At the beach, Matthew discovered the water is green because of all the plankton in it and not because of pollution. During the trip on the Katie, Matthew had the opportunity to see plankton up close, and saw a worm that lives in the water and spends its time eating the little plankton.

"Well, I like science, but it's more interesting now, because now I know how everything works together, like the food chain. The plankton, there's two types. I thought they were only animals, but there are plants too. If the plankton died, it would affect the whole food chain," Ramirez said

"When they come, they're a little tentative because it's science, and they see that we're not handing out worksheets, or doing work in he classroom. But when they get out there and it becomes hands on, and they actually get to touch stuff and see things they've never seen before, they get pretty excited," Escamilla said.

After a trip to the Botanical Gardens Wednesday, the group will stay overnight on Thursday at an archeological dig site in San Patricio. They will have a chance to participate in a dig of Native American artifacts, which is currently being conducted by a professor and graduate students from Texas A&M University - Kingsville. They'll learn everything from how to conduct a dig to how to classify artifacts that are found.

On Saturday, the group will finish up with a trip to San Antonio to the IMAX Theatre, to see "Wild Safari" and then take a trip to see several presentations at the San Antonio Zoo.