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Grant project: Amityville Marine Biology Trip

Jun 11, 2014

In Amityville, New York, one small Kiwanis club is making a huge impact. A marine biology teacher wanted to bring her classroom experience alive for her students, many of whom live less than a mile from the ocean but have never visited. That’s where the Kiwanis Club of Amityville stepped in. With the help of a grant from the Kiwanis International Foundation, the club helped create a floating classroom—chartering a boat for more than 30 students.

The Kiwanis Club of Amityville, New York, has helped Marian Weber, a teacher at Amityville Memorial High School, fund her marine biology trip for four years now. In late spring, Marian takes between 30 to 40 of her marine biology students on a chartered boat into the Great South Bay for a day of marine biology lessons and fishing. And she’s accompanied by at least a half-dozen Kiwanians.

But in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States, Amityville was hit hard—many homes were damaged and many more were flooded. The small but mighty club stepped in with manpower and money to help get their community back on its feet. But this didn’t leave enough money to fund Marian’s fishing trip.

One club member approached her fellow Kiwanians with an idea she got from Kiwanis magazine: apply for a grant from the Kiwanis International Foundation. They did—and our foundation stepped in to fill the financial gap. As a result, Marian brought her marine biology lessons to life once again.

Each year, the trip opens new worlds for her students, many of whom are from underprivileged backgrounds. After setting sail and cruising a short distance from the shore, the captain drops a net to the seafloor. A few minutes later, the net is hauled on board and emptied. That’s when classroom lessons meet real-life lessons. Marian picks up crabs, shellfish and whatever else might have been scooped up and describes them to her students. The students begin to call out the names of what she’s holding, as well as details about the animals.

Then, the real test: holding the marine life for themselves. After quite a bit of hesitation, the students take hold of it and pass it around. Eyes light up—peals of laughter and even a few shrieks are heard.

Afterward, a large net with a plastic water bottle attached to its end is thrown into the water to collect plankton and other micro-organisms. After it’s hoisted in, Marian holds the bottle up to the light so the students can see what’s inside. After the day’s lessons, the students all get the opportunity to fish. Prizes are awarded for the largest fish and the most fish caught.

The Kiwanis International Foundation helped the Kiwanis Club of Amityville make this life-changing trip possible—thanks to your generosity. Click here to enjoy a short documentary video about this grant project.