After months of precautionary cancellations due to the pandemic, BIOS staff hosted several school groups on campus this June for marine science studies that complement public and private school curriculums.
The Bermuda High School for Girls (BHS) was the first of four local schools to arrive this month for lessons since pandemic restrictions ended on island, followed by Warwick Academy, Somersfield Academy, and Clearwater Middle School, said Kaitlin Noyes, BIOS director of education and community engagement.
The BHS visit to BIOS, focused specifically on the island’s coral reefs, was a first for the school’s students, said science teacher Amanda Darrell. “It won’t be the last,” she said, describing the 55 participating students as “excited and amazed.”
The experience was part of the Year 9 marine biology curriculum for 13- and 14-year-old students attending BHS. During their 90-minute visit to BIOS, the students rotated among three indoor and outdoor lab stations to learn about coral and ongoing coral reef research. They discussed Bermuda’s unique reefs system, one of the highest-latitude reefs in the Atlantic supported by warm currents carried in by the Gulf Stream.
The students examined 15 different coral species and their basic parts, including polyps, the individual, genetically-identical organisms that make up a coral colony. They went on to learn about the relationship between coral and zooxanthellae, tiny plant cells that live within most types of coral polyps. Zooxanthellae photosynthesize, enabling the corals to share in energy captured directly from the sun.
Students also learned how Bermuda’s reefs and marine environments are imperiled by a range of threats, from warming waters and acidifying seas to pollution and the invasion of non-native species, including lionfish. After, they listened to stories about ongoing research at BIOS that may serve to increase understanding of reef systems and how to protect and conserve them.
“The students were engaged, they asked important questions, and they were keen to learn about corals and the methods used to study them,” said BIOS science education officer Claire Fox. The end of the academic year this month meant that hosting additional school classes on campus will need to wait for the fall, Fox said.
Still, having dozens of local students again partaking in BIOS educational offerings in person was a reason to celebrate. “It’s wonderful to have them back on campus,” Fox said.