GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Young children touched sting rays, middle school students learned about various shells and college students watched as a rescued sea turtle was examined. Those educational opportunities and more, were all happening Friday at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
"This actually a type of murex," said the instructor, as middle school students examined shells.
Twenty students from Acorn High School near Mena, Arkansas, traveled 11 hours to participate in a three-day camp at IMMS.
"Any questions so far?"
The visiting 7th and 8th graders are learning about things like penta radial symmetry and the characteristics of gastropod mollusks.
"My kids live in the Ouachita mountain range of Arkansas. Most of them have never been to the ocean, so when I teach oceanography they just can't imagine the vastness of the ocean and what's really here. Looking at it in a book and a picture is one thing, and watching videos. But really experiencing it? They're going to remember this," said teacher Kathy Rusert.
While the Arkansas visitors surveyed shells, children from Martin Bluff Elementary in Gautier took turns petting a snake. They also learn more about their school's mascot.
"The American alligator is a good example of an animal that was on the endangered species list," said the instructor, as she held up a large gator skull.
And while the big gator head intrigued these curious kids, children at the touch tank are also fully engaged.
"If it looks like a rocket ship, then it's a male," said a teacher, holding up a blue crab.
Meanwhile, in the veterinary medical section a rescued sea turtle is examined as college students from Ohio watch and learn.
"A very good experience for the students to be able to come down to an area they've never had a chance to come to before. Be able to see how research is actually done," said Dr. Shannon Finerty of Bowling Green State University.
Just another busy day of education at IMMS.
"We have mini camps, summer camps, dozing with dolphins. All sorts of graduate students, masters, PhD's coming to work here. Field trips. I mean we are busy," said IMMS Director Dr. Moby Solangi.