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IN CLASS WITH SHARKS SOMETHING FISHY FOR SIXTH-GRADERS OUT OF SCHOOL.

Byline: Sharon Cotal Staff Writer

CATALINA ISLAND - Instead of sitting at their desks reading books about ocean life, 85 sixth-grade students from Rio Vista Elementary School in Santa Clarita recently had the opportunity to get up close and personal with sharks, rays and other marine animals.

The students traded three days of school for a three-day science adventure at the Catalina Island Marine Institute camp, popularly called Camp CIMI. ``Kids don't even realize that they're learning because of all the fun activities they are enjoying,'' said Tami Gardner, a Rio Vista teacher who accompanied the group. ``That's what I love most about the camp - the hands-on activities. We can't do that in the classroom.''

Located on the island at Toyon Bay, the camp offers snorkeling, island ecology hikes and marine biology labs where the kids dissected a squid and touched sharks, rays and other marine life.

``We went to a shark lab to learn about the different types of sharks, and we got to touch a leopard shark,'' said Devon Watson, 12.

Donning wet suits and exploring the bay's underwater gardens seemed to be the most popular activity.

``We have some kids who have never been in the ocean. Maybe they've put their toes in, but that's about it. So for them to see all the different wildlife that's out in the kelp bed was amazing to them,'' Gardner said.

A lucky few of the campers, selected by a drawing, were able to go on a night snorkel dive using underwater lights to observe the nocturnal life in Toyon Bay Cove.

``I saw a few crabs by the pier, and I saw bioluminescence,'' said Amanda Orosco, 11, who participated in the night dive. ``There's the plankton that light up, and they look like little balls lit up in the water.''

In addition to studying marine science, kids said they gained more appreciation of the environment.

``After the trip, I had a better perspective of how important the ocean is to us and how it really affects us,'' Amanda said.

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With some adult advisers, sixth-graders from Rio Vista Elementary School in Santa Clarita handle live marine invertebrates at a laboratory on Catalina Island.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 31, 2005
Words:366
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