A Week at Catalina Island

Upper El has returned from their annual trip to the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI), and they sure had a blast! Students had close or hands-on encounters with eels, sharks, seals, algae, bison, deer, sting rays, squid and more! Amy Sandqvist, co-owner of FMS and a long-time FMS parent, was along for the (sometimes nauseating) ride. Here is her day-by-day synopsis:
[h4]Day 1[/h4]
After a long nauseating boat ride, we arrived and went straight for a snorkel. The water was 68 degrees! We met a sea hare and he felt like pudding. We also saw a bat ray and loads of fish. In the evening, we did a squid dissection in the dining room. Ooey, gooey, slimy, and great fun!
[h4]Day 2[/h4]
“Initiatives” (cooperative team building): We balanced all 20 children on a giant seesaw without rocking it, built bridges, climbed through “spider webs”, etc. The CIMI counselors complimented the FMS students on how quickly they solved the challenges. The children beamed as the counselors shared how impressed they were with their ability to take turns listening, their leadership skills, and how polite everyone was throughout the process. Then we hiked and learned about local flora and fauna and about the geography and history of Catalina Island.
Afternoon snorkel: After taking turns leaping off the pier and doing all kinds of fancy flips into the water, we snorkeled for almost two hours. We saw bat rays, shovel-nosed guitar fish, halibut, garibaldi, senorita, sea hare, leopard sharks, kelp forests and more.
Night snorkel: Lobsters and other invertebrates showed up in the evening. It was a wee bit freezing getting out of the wetsuits — thank goodness for hot cocoa!


[h4]Day 3[/h4]
All day kayak! We kayaked in pairs out in the ocean where we met seals and sea lions. We spent a good part of the day at the beach, walking and studying the tide pools. We caught two eels — they have very scary teeth! We kept the smaller one and named her Eelinor. We scarfed down our lunch on the beach before going out to play “kayak football.” We had boat challenges to see who could keep their boats upright while standing, trading places, and doing the chicken dance. Finally, we chased after but never caught up with a pod of dolphins. We wanted to play with them too!
Then we did some on-the-spot long division (ask the kids!) and made like Spiderman on the rock climbing wall. Needless to say, we fell into our beds exhausted!
[h4]Day 4[/h4]
We spent our day in labs: algae lab, fish lab and shark lab. Our budding zoologists were eager to touch everything and soaked up lots of information. Only one school gets to feed the sharks, and our school was chosen! We spent the afternoon in the ocean mammal lab and learned about seals, sea lions, otters, whales and dolphins. The evening was spent around the campfire, roasting marshmallows, telling jokes and playing telephone.
[h4]Day 5[/h4]
More labs: ocean lab, physics lab, plankton lab and invertebrate lab. We snuck in one more “long division lab” (ask the kids!). Finally, we had lunch on the boat and headed home. Whew!