Highlands Blog

8th Grade Studies on Dauphin Island

Students began the trip with a night hike on the beach adjacent to the sea lab. It was a dark night sky, and the students were awed by the sight of the Milky Way and the planet, Saturn. We saw numerous ghost crabs scurrying in and out of their burrows, and bioluminescent comb jellies sparkled in the waves breaking on the beach. 
The next morning our sea lab educator, Jenny, took us to a nearby salt marsh where we used a seine to catch a wide variety of organisms living in the marsh and Mississippi Sound. Among the highlights caught were a horseshoe crab, a stingray, and many species of fish. We then spent the afternoon on a hike exploring the beach, dune, and maritime forest ecosystems on the island. This gave students the opportunity to see firsthand that Alabama’s coastal areas are a complex mix of diverse habitats. We ended the day with a look at plankton collected in the salt marsh (using microscopes in one of the teaching labs on site) and a refreshing swim in the sea lab’s pool. 
On Sunday morning, we met Jenny on the dock to board the sea lab’s 70 foot research vessel, R/V Alabama Discovery. The captain took us to the mouth of Mobile Bay where we sampled water chemistry and used an otter trawl to see the marine organisms living there. We then traveled out into the Gulf on the south side of Dauphin Island where we completed another trawl. Students had the opportunity to see larger versions of the species caught in the salt marsh (the ocean’s nursery) and the mouth of Mobile Bay. Highlights included three species of ray, bay squid, mantis shrimp, numerous species of fish, and a female blue crab carrying millions of eggs. Before heading back to Birmingham, students engaged in an engineering program that challenged them to build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that would successfully navigate the pool to collect objects. Students had fun troubleshooting their designs and maneuvering the ROV’s in the pool. The eighth graders all agreed that the Dauphin Island trip was fun, engaging, and educational. 
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.