Baby Turtles - Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

The Turtle Girls: Never Too Young To Make A Difference

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Chuck Nelson, a Program Leader from California, believes in the power of educational travel. Each year, he takes his students on a hands-on science adventure because he finds that it brings the real world into the classroom. His passion for travel and the environment has been translated to three of his students, and their experiences were recently featured in an article written by Chuck in the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) Science and Children magazine.

“When I was a kid, my family traveled a lot. I learned so much on those trips because they took what I was learning in the classroom and made it come to life,” said Nelson. “Now that I am a teacher, I want my students to have those same experiences. Lessons they learn in my science classes are very important, and when they get to experience those lessons firsthand, I know that they will remember them for the rest of their lives.”

On his most recent trip to Florida, his class visited the Turtle Hospital located in Marathon Key, where the students learned about sea turtles and how they are threatened due to human effect on their environment. The goal of the hospital is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release all injured turtles, but a few are too damaged to return to their natural habitats.

“When our guide informed us that host parents could adopt these permanent patients, my students’ eyes and smiles grew wide. The adoption fee supports the turtles’ food and medical costs at the facility for one year. I thought the experience would soon be forgotten, but within a day or two of our homecoming, three of my students approached me about scheduling a turtle meeting in the science laboratory in order to adopt a turtle. Surprised, but pleased, I honored their request,” said Nelson.

The three girls called themselves the “Turtle Girls,” and decided that the most effective fundraiser would be a loose change drive. They hung posters around the school, made daily announcements, and even spoke at an all-school assembly about the plight of sea turtles to promote their upcoming fundraiser.

After the one day loose change drive, the Turtle Girls raised $116.03! The group decided to adopt Montel for one year and set aside another $35 for next year’s “Turtle Fund.” The girls proudly framed the adoption paper and photographs, which are now on display in the front office of the school for everyone to see. They donated the rest of the money to the PacificMarine Mammal Center, a local rescue hospital for sea lions.

“Reflecting on what my students accomplished in just three weeks, I realized how capable young people can be when a project comes from their hearts. I discovered that as a facilitator, less is more,” said Nelson. “The look of accomplishment on their faces showed me that the experience helped them learn an important life lesson: Any one of us can make a difference. The students felt great about what they had done to help others and became more aware of the need to protect our planet. Now, they are empowered to initiate change in their community and beyond; and isn’t that the overall goal of public education inAmerica?”

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