By Lisa Statham Posteraro
Special to the Beacon
Thanks to the Levy County 4-H program and Brenda Heberling, Levy County’s 5th grade public school students have the opportunity each year to discover first-hand how plants and animals live in the nearby habitat called the Gulf of Mexico.
Heberling schedules boat rides, seining and dredging experiences, and shore exploration for the students who travel by bus to visit Cedar Key and Atsena Otie. They enjoy a bagged lunch in the City Park on Cedar Key before returning to their home schools.
The end of September and the first few days of October found six 5th grade teachers from Williston Elementary School — Nancy Bowman, Jeanne DuBois, Mary Sridhar, Jessica Stevenson, Serena Thiessen and Steve Van Zwienen – donning their shorts and sun hats to escort their individual classes on this annual pilgrimage.
Two of Bowman’s students could call out the varied names of the marine life they collected. “We caught a lot of fish in a net. The boys caught a big hermit crab,” said Kylie Campbell.
Reginald Monroe added to Kylie’s list, “…also a pufferfish, shrimp, pipefish, a sea robin, sea squirts…a flounder, which [Heberling told them] wasn’t supposed to be there this time of year.”
“It was fun!” said Campbell. Jesus Garcia in DuBois’s class agreed.
“It’s fun to go on a boat to the beach and look for a fish. You can touch it. You can see fish you’ve never seen before. And you get wet!” Garcia said with a smile.
“I got to see all these fish I never saw before, and I got to ride in a boat,” said Desiron Gray from Stevenson’s class.
Mercedes Casillas, who is in Sridhar’s homeroom class, said, "Cedar Key was really fun! We caught so many different kinds of fish and learned so much.” And she thinks it’s “really fun feeding the fish" who are now in their classroom aquarium.
“We dredged and seined when we went to Cedar Key. We caught more of a variety and more interesting fish dredging on the boat. We caught striped burm puffers, arrow crabs, box fish, a sand dollar, a seahorse, and many, many more. Best field trip ever!” said Sam Silvester from Serena Thiessen’s class.
“Dredging and seeing all the different fish” was what Shane Crawford liked. Shane is in Van Zwienen’s room. Kayla McClure agreed.
“Cedar Key was a blast!” said Rodolfo Mundojano also in “Mr. Van’s” room. “We were left on an island [Atsena Otie] and that’s where the fun started!”
“It was awesome!” concluded Michael Hopson.