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Sun Herald News Article by Leigh Coleman- July 13, 2010
Camp Explorers the Marine Ecosystem


GULFPORT — There may be tar balls on the Coast shores but the students at the new Ocean Expo Summer Camp on Tuesday were merrily using seine and dip nets to catch fish and crabs in the back bay areas and marshes.

Young adventurers are exploring the marine world around them during the full-day camp that kicked off here this week at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

Campers will take to the bay on the IMMS Curlew pontoon boat, take big trips to Ship Island, go crabbing and fishing, tour the marshlands and test water samples.

The young mariners will also learn about science in dissection class to learn the ins and outs of squid, lamprey and other fish.

Gulf marine educator Dr. Sharon Walker is spearheading the new camp as the IMMS’ director of education and outreach programs.

Walker has created a camp that drives home an appreciation for local habitats and ecosystems, water quality, and stewardship through hands-on learning experiences.

She said the first thing she wanted to do when she came to the institute was bring back the rigor and excitement for marine education that used to exist in young people.

“I call it K-through-gray learning,” she said. “We must nurture and inspire these young learners about our waters and animals that live here. It is vital that we empower them now.”

Walker said since the oil has washed on the Coast shores she has incorporated a camp curriculum that teaches the youngsters about what is happening in the Gulf.

“We are putting feathers, cotton and other material is Wesson oil to see the effects oil has on certain things,” Walker said.

“The children are worried about the dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life so we must talk to them about it.”

Walker said talking about the oil in the Gulf creates better environmental stewards.

With such a great location, the new camp on the water is bound to be spectacular for interactive marine education in years to come.

“We are offering scholarships to students to attend the new camp,” said Moby Solangi, president of the institute. “We do not want to turn away any child.

“In light of the oil spill, it is very poignant to have a summer camp focused on the marine environment. Even if they cap the well today there is so much in the Gulf already the damage has been done. There is much to study for many years to come.”

There are a few openings for the Ocean Expo Summer Camp being held next week.

For details call 896-9182 or visit imms.org to register.

By: Leigh Coleman

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