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Andros Adventure

By Elizabeth Carvellas



ABSTRACT

Andros Adventure, a multidisciplinary course, has been offered at Colchester High School, Colchester, Vermont since 1982. The 1/2 credit course integrates marine biology, botany, art, photography, and journal writing during 8 evening sessions, a pool session to practice snorkeling, and the culminating 8 day field study on Andros Island, Bahamas. Students stay at the Forfar Field Station run by International Field Studies of Columbus, Ohio. While on the island, each student completes a series of art and biology projects related to the unique aspects of the coral reef ecosystem and the botany of the region. Upon return, students share their work with parents and community members at an evening presentation.

OBJECTIVES

  1. The student will learn that science and art are naturally interrelated; that language, both written and verbal, and visual symboling are complimentary; that problem-solving can be both visual and verbal.
  2. 2. The student will learn to observe and to record marine and botanical specimens in the field and lab situations.
  3. The student will keep a two part field study notebook. Part I will include field observations notes, and sketches. Part 2 will be a journal of experiences and reflections.
  4. The student will learn about the artistic and cultural heritage of the island inhabitants.
  5. The student will research a topic of interest while on the island. In addition, each student will complete a variety of biology and art activities which are related to the unique features of the island and ecosystem.

DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY

The disciplines of biology and art have been integrated at Colchester High School since 1980. What began as an optional quarter project for a select few students grew into the multidisciplinary program which we call Andros Adventure. Since 1982, more than 150 students have participated in the 8 day biology/art field study to the Bahamas. To our knowledge, this is the only time that the field station has been utilized for this particular interdisciplinary approach.

An 8 session evening seminar precedes the field study. During the evening sessions, the students learn and practice drawing, painting and snorkeling, and study the biology of the region with emphasis on marine ecology and botany. Prior to departure, students choose a topic which they will research while on the island. This allows us to bring materials specifically designed to support individual research.

Throughout the week on the island, as students study the local flora and fauna, they take careful note of structural characteristics, unique adaptations, habitats, niches, and interdependent relationships. All are helpful when an artistic representation is made. In addition to their chosen research project, each student produces drawings, paintings, and photographs of specimens studied. We have found that, if a student can draw the specimen accurately, she/he will more clearly understand its structure/function relationships and will remember the information much longer. On our final day on the island, students hang an art show and display their "memory pieces," expressive three dimensional works which contain visual memories of their week. One other artistic aspect of the week is the chance to observe two of the native "industries," basket weaving and batik (fabric resist-dying.)

Many students who participate in the Andros Adventure are reluctant to fulfill the art requirement. As the week progresses, they realize the value of the art-biology connection. For example, as an incentive to produce accurate representations of the local flora, our botanist describes the anatomy of a flower as students dissect and draw their own chosen plants. The drawings which result are invariably accurate to the finest detail. Throughout the week, as students study a variety of organisms, they are continually surprised that they are able to produce accurate representations of their chosen organisms. Upon return, many the students who had never been able to fit art into their schedules find a way to sign up for an art course for the following year!

Although the biology and art portions of the trip are stressed, Andros Adventure is truly a multidisciplinary venture. Each student is briefed on the use of a journal and each is required to make daily entries. The journals are collected and graded. Many of the students try snorkeling for the first time and become quite skillful by the time we leave. Photography is stressed, and we always develop our slides while on the island, enabling us to have a slide show on our final night. Lastly, the cross cultural experience is invaluable. Students meet and make friends with many of the island natives while observing a very different lifestyle and culture.

Although Andros Adventure is unquestionably a powerful learning experience for all involved, perhaps the most exciting aspect of the trip is the enthusiasm with which the students and staff approach their "work." It's education at its best, hands-on and fun!


FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information regarding the curriculum, a bibliography, a supplies list, or other trip information, please contact Betty Carvellas (AEECarvell@aol.com), Colchester High School, Box 31, Laker Lane, Colchester, VT 05446, phone - (802) 658-1570.

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