Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson’s student-run newspaper
Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Marine Ecology class explores Monterey’s ocean diversity

On Oct. 29, Branson’s Marine Ecology class had a field trip to Monterey.

The class, taught by Peter Zdrojewski, had been in its Diversity of Life unit. Students were “learning about the ocean and the animals that live in it,” said Ella Loiacono ‘24. She noted that they “were focusing on the chemistry-related side of marine ecology.”

The purpose of the trip, Zdrojewski said, was to give students real-world context for what they had been learning in class. 

“It’s neat for students to be able to walk around on their own and explore and start to appreciate firsthand all the diversity we have in our ocean,” he said.

In the morning, students arrived at school and then drove for three hours with Zdrojewski, chemistry teacher Jill Mankoff, Director of Counseling Kelsey Acevedo-Soto and Director of Finance Amber Johnson down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on California’s Central Coast. 

Zdrojewski said that the aquarium “has this crazy breadth of animals, from really amazing deep sea creatures to things you typically think of in kelp forests or coral reefs.”

Students also appreciated the experiential learning that the aquarium had to offer. 

“Going to the aquarium was really nice,” said Loiacono, “…we got to learn and then apply what we learned in class. Rather than just being like ‘Oh, that’s a jellyfish,’ we got to actually see jellyfish. It was about the hands-on learning.”

Loiacono also said that the way students learned at the aquarium was different from how they would in a classroom setting. 

“As you get older, you get more freedom at Branson, so we were able to just roam around. The trip wasn’t guided; we just had a spot to meet back at,” she said.

When the group finished walking around the aquarium, they took the trip outdoors and headed over to the marina to go snorkeling. 

Zdrojewski, who has been on over 500 ocean dives, helped teach first-time snorkelers and gave everyone some tips, and then everyone jumped in. 

“We swam about a quarter mile to where the sea lions inhabit, and then we said hi,” said Loiacono.

She added, “The water wasn’t clear, so sometimes Peter would say a sea lion swam under us but we couldn’t see it, so it was difficult but still fun. The sea lions were loud!”

Zdrojewski joked that “everyone was screaming either out of terror or out of joy” during the snorkeling experience.

Loiacano also shared her experience visiting the tropical waters of the Bahamas at the Island School through Branson last year.

“Going to the California coastal waters was such a different experience, and it changed my perspective on the diversity of the ocean,” Loiacano said. “This part of the ocean is really different, and I thought it was really cool to explore.”

Zdrojewski hoped the trip had a large impact on the way students in his class learn and interact with their environment.

“As citizens of this land and ocean, I think it’s really important [for students] to understand what’s out there and to appreciate it, because you’re only going to want to protect something when you know it and understand it,” Zdrojewski said.

Loiacoano added, “The biodiversity of the California coast is really amazing and we learn about that in class because it has a lot to offer, but the fact that we get to experience it in our backyard is really cool.”

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About the Contributor
Khema Klinetobe
Khema Klinetobe, Writer, Photographer