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GETTING HANDS DIRTY FOR MARINE LIFE

Reflections by Students in Grades 6, 7, and 8
On Friday, October 13, students from grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 traveled from our Knowlton Campus (Grades 5-12) to our Hough Campus (PK3 - Grade 4) to work in the marsh grass nursery there in an effort to restore the Tampa Bay Estuary. Students in grade 4 monitor the nursery there weekly to ensure the water salinity and ph is ideal for grass growth. The Cordgrass, Spartinia alterniflora, is vital to the ecosystem because it reduces flooding and filters water. Unfortunately, most marsh grass habitats in Tampa Bay have been destroyed for development purposes.
 
To combat this and replenish marsh grass in the environment, twice a year, middle school students visit the nursery to split the root balls and double the marsh grass, plant new grass and--in the spring--harvest the grass and take it to a wetland area in Tampa Bay to be planted. Below, are some reflections from the students on their experience.  
 
REFLECTIONS FROM GRADE 6
I feel very proud of what our school, Canterbury School of Florida, did because just like us humans, plants and animals deserve a secure and safe environment to live and grow in. This marsh grass field trip helped me learn how to really nurture marsh grass and plants in general. All in all, I truly enjoyed this field trip and I would gladly do this over and over again. -- Carly H.
 
While we were at the Marsh grass field trip I got to replant marsh grass (obviously). You might think it sounds easy. IT IS NOT. Trust me, it's definitely not. There's so so so much to do. There are specific steps you have to follow to do it ‘right’. The reason why we went is for the environment. First of all, it's a good habitat and fish might actually eat the marsh grass. Even though we're just kids we can still help nature. This field trip helped me realize what's happening in the environment. -- Alex R.
 

REFLECTIONS FROM GRADE 7
The marsh grass field trip is not only fun, it’s good for the environment too! We go to the lower campus to pull, split, then plant the marsh grass. We take half of the plants and replant them on a site near the water, so that they can work as a barrier against strong waves. We take the leftover half, divide it, and replant it. By doing this we are giving the plants an opportunity to reproduce and by next year have twice as much! It’s satisfactory to know that you are helping out in the environment and actually making a difference just by doing an easy task! I can now educate and encourage my community to be aware of marsh grass and how much our civilization needs it. -- Corliss B.
 
To be honest, getting dirty is pretty far down on my list of fun things to do, but if it’s for a good cause, then there is a chance of persuading me to do it. During the field trip, I worked with two of my friends to split the plants and then replant them into a second container. We went on the field trip to double the plants in the nursery. Now that the nursery is full again, next year, we can plant them in an area, maybe in Tampa Bay, that needs the marsh grass. On this field trip, I learned that (a) you don’t die from getting dirty, and (b) sometimes it’s worth doing something you don’t want to do for a good cause. -- Sophie M.
 
The marsh grass field trip was great. I love having fun while saving the planet and I think that more schools should do the same. This also teaches the student about physical labor and can help them when they need to get a job or even a small thing like a project. The main thing we did on the field trip was put the plants in trays and put them in the nursery so the marsh grass can grow twice as big and become healthy for more to be put on our shorelines to save them from wearing away. I think the work helped the ocean and land, so the labor was pretty much a win-win. The overall lesson I got from this field trip is that we need to help the environment or we may lose resources we need to survive. -- Tytan M.
 
My friends and I started the long, hot work that ended up being insanely messy. We came here hoping to help the world one plant at a time. It was hard work and very dirty indeed but I personally had a very good time. I really took away from this that if I want a better world, I’m going to have to work for it. -- Oliver S.
 
Our physical labor contributed to the health of our local marsh ecosystems because the marsh grass will become a habitat to animals, as well as make the beach look nice. The mud all over my hands and legs was uncomfortable for sure, but the feeling of doing something good for our ecosystem felt pretty cool. The overall lesson I took away from this field trip was that doing something good, feels good. -- Meghan L.
 
The marsh grass field trip is a fun experience where you get to help the environment as well as make amazing memories with your best friends. Canterbury is community of cooperative people who want to do their best to help the environment. -- Bibi P.
 
REFLECTIONS FROM GRADE 8
I have gone to Canterbury for ten years now. I have been here through the growth and development of the marine studies program, especially the marsh grass program. When I was in first grade the marsh grass was first put on the playground. Through the years I have learned how to measure the ph levels of the grass, how to plant it, harvest it, and tell if the grass is healthy. In our experience with the grass we had classroom activities as well. We learned its scientific name “spartina,” the animals that live in it, and why it is important to Florida's ecosystem. Through this program me and my fellow eighth graders help the younger students have the same a great experience that I had. -- Nia T.

Once you understand the importance of the trip and marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora), it is easy to handle the plants delicately with care, as it strongly affects the ecosystem. Marsh grass grows, and is a part of wetlands, which acts as a flood control, filters the dirty water (although it has its limits), and is a habitat to many wildlife such as ducks, fish, reptiles, amphibians etc. However, the wetlands and marsh grasses are getting destroyed mainly due to human impacts. Humans would sometimes fill the wetlands with trash, and more dirt and concrete to establish new buildings, which destroys those wetlands. So in order to renew some of the wetlands, we teamed up with Tampa Bay Watch to plant and grow back the marsh grasses, hoping to renovate and help thrive the wetland marshes. -- Jessica L.

We went on this field trip to provide community service to the school, and to help the environment. Thanks to our efforts, next year the other middle schoolers can harvest these plants and put them into our ecosystem. This will help regulate floodwaters and prevent damage to natural habitats. When we got to the Hough Campus, I was very excited to see all of my old teachers, and I wanted to dive right into the work so I thrust my hands into the mud, and pulled out the harvested plants--my hands came out looking like a pig pen! I was a little nervous at first, and washed off my hands and stayed back a bit, not wanting to get dirty. But with a little encouragement from my friends, I was ready to go all in! I learned a lot about teamwork and friendship, and that it’s okay to be nervous, but sometimes you just have to embrace it, and get muddy! -- Jared M.

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