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Real-world learning experience is much more than a trip to Sea World

Modules students at Hughes Academy embark on educational adventure

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  • Huges Academy Module facilitator David Slagle, and another teacher snorkel with students in the Crystal River in Homosassa, Florida.
    Huges Academy Module facilitator David Slagle, and another teacher snorkel with students in the Crystal River in Homosassa, Florida.
Snorkeling, swimming, and a trip to Sea World would be a dream vacation for most children. For members of the Aquanauts Club at Hughes Academy, it’s how they spend one week of school. Yes, school.

Synergistic science Module Facilitator David Slagle sponsors the Aquanauts and plans the educational adventure that takes his students from their homes in Greenville, South Carolina, to Homosassa, Florida, each spring.

“We’ll float down Crystal River in wet suits, masks, and snorkels,” Slagle said. “We start looking for manatees, engage with them, and observe them. We go to Citrus County’s Educational Center and instruct classes into the evening on invertebrates and live rocks. Then we’ll go to Orlando for a day and see Sea World or Animal Kingdom.”

Students raise money to help fund the trip, and the 65 club members are on pace to raise $40,000 this year. They must also spend several Saturdays during the school year participating in club activities such as hiking Appalachian trails to study macroinvertebrates and contributing to the club’s recycling efforts.

“The hook is – if you want to go on the trip, you’ve got to do the work,” Slagle said.

Five of the 14 Synergistic Modules in Slagle’s seventh-grade lab correlate to topics students explore during their trip. Water Management, Ecology, and Environmental Issues, in particular, reinforce what the Aquanauts learn.

“They’re engaged in learning the entire trip,” Slagle said. “We make sure we’re doing distance learning with core subjects. We have school all week, and we integrate social science, language arts, mathematics, and we do some of it online.”