BRADENTON -- In quick succession Monday, 26 Bayshore High School students exited the school bus and, in shorts, T-shirts and sneakers, waded into the water at Sunny Shores Park carrying buckets and 20-foot seines.
With shouts and complaints about the cold -- an overcast, chilly morning, wasn't the ideal condition -- the honors marine biology students had their marching orders from teacher Reinhardt Badow: Find food to bring back to the animals in their aquariums.
"Focus on the little shrimp," Badow called out from the shore.
The field trip was one of 14 Badow's three honors marine biology classes take each year to help students gain hands-on experience. Students are charged with caring for a classroom aquarium and graded on them quarterly. Field trips help students learn more about local ecosystems.
Low tide was an ideal time for students to find and catch animals. Hovering around the seines with their buckets, students occasionally called out questions or special finds, including one who found a starfish. Badow
corrected the student: The correct terminology is sea star.
"It's not a fish," he said.
With an aquarium grade coming up, 16-year-old junior Autumn DeBlock and 18-year-old senior Krista Edwards focused on finding food and materials for their tank. The girls came out of the water with sea stars, a few small pine fish and other plants to add to their aquarium.
"I'm a visual person," DeBlock said. "These trips are really fun actually."
Edwards said she planned to major in biology in college, but Badow's classes have swayed her toward marine biology. The field trips provide the class with a more comprehensive look, she said.
"We have to classify the animals," she said. "You have to really look in-depth.
Badow's honors classes are for students serious about pursuing science or marine biology as a career. He has 80 students this year, between 26 and 29 in each class.
To fund the trips, which can cost $300 a day, Badow writes grants and relies on donations from local agencies. The Sierra Club and Sarasota Bay Estuary Club have helped significantly with the costs, Badow said.
In past years, when grants or donations didn't come through, Badow turned to parents to help defray costs, which he said he doesn't like to do. Badow hasn't secured funding for the rest of this year's trips, but said he is confident he'll have enough for all planned trips.
The field trips, he said are "invaluable. A lot of them haven't been in this environment before."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.