Spring break is going swimmingly for 18 Brooks School students currently SCUBA diving in the Caribbean as a continuation of their Winter Term course, The Art & Science of SCUBA Diving.
The students "look fantastic underwater in terms of their skills and buoyancy," said science teacher Laura Hajdukiewicz P '15, P'17, P'19, who taught the class and is heading up this trip, her eighth such excursion with Brooksians. Dive the World instructor, tour operator, and Brooks School parent Susan Copelas P'06 is accompanying the group as well, after leading the class's dive instruction during Winter Term.
The group departed campus on the first day of spring break last Wednesday, March 6, and are spending a week on Roatán, one of Honduras's Bay Islands about 30 miles from the mainland in the Caribbean Sea.
Each day they have the opportunity to SCUBA dive, explore shipwrecks and check out all the marine life that lives in the area's crystal waters, including tropical fish, dolphins, turtles, and sharks.
With more than 100 charted scuba and snorkeling sites, Roatán is a diving mecca — the perfect spot for Brooks' group of certified divers and non-certified divers who made the trip with the goal of completing the open-water Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification course they started during Winter Term.
Naturally, students dove right into that challenge. By early Saturday, all had completed their checkout dives, become certified, and joined the others who'd been brushing up their skills on refresher dives.
"They passed with flying colors," Hajdukiewicz wrote in a blog to parents. "...After they completed a few skills on the first dive, they were off to explore the reef. One of the groups saw a nurse shark (the other group was quite jealous) and we were hoping to see the dolphins that swam near our dive boat. We did a dive through an area called the Labyrinth and there were gorgeous huge coral formations that surrounded us."
Diving isn't all that the group has been enjoying, however. Their hotel, the 30-acre Turquoise Bay Resort, is "perched on a hill overlooking the ocean and the beach is absolutely gorgeous," Hajdukiewicz shared. "There are over-the-water swings, bungalows, hammocks, a volleyball court..."
Venturing away from the palm-tree-studded private beach, students and chaperones have also gone on excursions to a local shopping area, a shark dive, and visited a sloth and monkey sanctuary!
Even a land-based lecture on day two had students' full attention. "We had a guest educator talk to the kids about the coral restoration project that they will be participating in this week," said Hajdukiewicz. "They learned quite a bit about coral bleaching and the destruction of our reefs during Winter Term, so they're happy to be able to do their part to help try and regrow the reefs here in Roatán."
By Monday, the students had their opportunity to help the reef restoration project hands-on. They'd learned about how divers collect broken pieces of healthy coral and put them on one of the 20 trees in a coral nursery. Once the coral has grown large enough, Hajdukiewicz said, they are planted back onto the reef in hopes that they'll spread and the reef will grow more healthy.
"Our job was to clean the trees of all the algae that had built up," she explained. "The kids were amazing. They worked in teams of two and scrubbed those trees completely clean. They all really enjoyed it and said it was very fulfilling work. . . . We had such a large group that we were able to get the entire nursery cleaned up in one session. Susan and I were so proud of the kids and I think they felt like they really were able to make a difference in a small way towards helping the coral reef."
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