Westfield High School 11th and 12th graders in Jennifer Sirman’s environmental science class made a recent virtual field trip to a sea turtle hospital in Florida as part of a classroom ecology unit. Students were given a virtual tour, meeting “Galapagos,” “Justice Ginsberg,” and other rehabilitating sea turtles named, by hospital staff, after places and people in history.
“The average lifespan of a sea turtle is 80-100 years old,” said Lindsay French, STEM Education Coordinator at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. “We have 100 sea turtles on average here each year.”
French said hospital staff treat loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles for a variety of injuries caused by shark bites, fishing lines, boat propellers, and other hazards. The center also rescues and releases sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean, who may have become disoriented by nearby lighting, heading toward the lights rather than the sea.
“In our ecology unit, we discussed ecosystems and food chains/webs,” says Sirmans. “During our introduction to environmental science, we also touched on broad topics, including biodegradability and pollution, and, as we continue through the year, we will focus more on these topics, specifically plastics during a unit on waste.”
Sirmans says her students greatly enjoyed the virtual field trip on Nov. 24 and, as a class, “adopted” a male loggerhead sea turtle named Brady who is being treated for wounds and internal injuries he suffered after becoming entangled in a fishing line.
“I hope my students make the connection of how damaging little things we do every day – like using and throwing away plastic water bottles, plastic bags, plastic utensils, and straws – can be to sea turtles and other living organisms,” says Sirman when asked what she hopes her students take away from this experience. “This could spark a change and make them more conscious of their decisions to use certain products over others.”