The ocean is one of the last places left to discover on our planet.
There is an entire world under the waves that few people ever get to see firsthand.
But 25 students from Lakeview Academy are now able to explore the open waters on their own after a 13-day trip to Florida.
Students who participate in the Summer Ocean Studies program earn a science credit and are certified to scuba dive by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
“The trip is a 100 percent hands-on lesson to learn about the ocean and wildlife,” biology teacher Marvin Clarke said.
The trip took the students swimming down the Crystal River where they were able to swim next to manatees.
Sarah Grace Brock, 16, said it was amazing to see the manatees, especially the mothers and babies. She said they had to take special care not to make any noise or disturb the river floor to get a good view.
“It looks like a really massive baked potato. They are also refereed to as the sea cow or sea potatoes,” Sarah Grace said.
After floating down the river, the students headed to the Florida Keys where they completed the necessary dives to earn their certification. While there they took a class on coral reef conservation and were certified to help clean the reefs.
While on Marathon and Islamorada keys, the students were able to dive on the reefs and go spear fishing.
Sarah Grace said that she enjoyed the challenge of hunting fish.
“When you shoot a spear gun, you can only shoot once and it takes about five minutes to reload so you don’thave a lot of chances to shoot a fish,” Sarah Grace said.
She was able to catch a black grouper that she gave to the boat captain.
Being under water with only the equipment on their backs keeping them alive, the students learned about safety and took the lessons very seriously.
Before leaving for the trip, the students had to complete a class in scuba diving. This was the second year the trip offered diving certification. Many students who went on the trip last year were already certified and were able to take in a few extra dives.
Kelly Holt Harrison, 16, said the only real drawback to being underwater is how difficult it is to communicate.
Instead of speaking, as they normally would, the students would have to wave their arms or find other ways of getting classmates’ and instructors’ attention.
Kelly said she was only frightened once while diving. While she and a friend explored the ocean floor a little way from the group, she spotted a shark.
“There was this massive shark, and we couldn’t get anyone’s attention,” Kelly said.
It turned out to be a harmless nurse shark, but its size would have been enough to make anyone nervous.
On Friday, the students got to take one last dive. This time they weren’t diving in the ocean but they had a unique opportunity to swim with one of the biggest fish in the sea, the whale shark.
The students took a “bucket list” dive in a tank at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
Jaimie Harrison, admissions director and chaperone, said it was an amazing, “out-of-the-box” learning experience for the students.
“A lot of them came home thinking they wanted to be a marine biologist. Or at least thinking they wanted to bring home a dolphin as a pet,” Harrison said, laughing