Florida Keys Spring Break
The Florida Keys are a string of beautiful tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of the U.S. state of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They’re known as a destination for fishing, boating, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The crystal clear waters and abundance of marine life made this destination at the top of Sea Turtle Camp’s travel list! We’re excited to offer this trip again for Spring Break 2024.
This exclusive adventure will immerse high school students in the biodiverse tropical paradise for 6 days and 5 nights. After flying into MIA, we will travel down to Key Largo to spend our week at the beautiful Marine Lab education center. Here we will get tons of hands-on experience in the marine science field and even be a part of citizen science efforts to collect data for scientific research. Students will explore the many habitats of the Florida Keys by boat and learn from marine science instructors about real scientific techniques used to discover the marine world. Marine Lab provides unmatched marine science programs in the Florida Keys. In true Sea Turtle Camp fashion, we will get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon. We will then spend some time at the Reef Environmental Education Foundation in Key Largo, learning about invasive lionfish and even participating in a lionfish dissection.
This program is designed for 10th – 12th graders who are passionate about marine science and looking for a tropical adventure. Join us on our next trip as we:
- Receive 10 hours of community service through citizen science
- Learn about invasive species and participate in a lionfish dissection
- Snorkel and collect data on the world’s 3rd largest barrier reef ecosystem
- Conduct a marine debris sweep and determine amounts in local waterways
- See live sea turtles and learn about local conservation efforts – and feed a sea turtle!
- Stay at a waterfront STEM education facility
**Please note that all activities are subject to change without notice**
Camp tuition includes all lodging, all meals, Sea Turtle Camp t-shirt, 24-hour same-gender adult supervision (4:1 camper to staff ratio), shuttle to and from Miami International Airport (MIA), snorkel equipment, daily transportation, all activity and admission fees, community service certificate, and group photo. For this program, campers are required to arrive at Miami International Airport (MIA) between 8-11 am Sunday, 3/24 for pick up. Flights must take off on the final day of the program between 12-3 pm Friday, 3/29.
Not included: Air travel to Miami, airport food or snacks (please note: the first meal served is dinner (6 pm) on the first day and the last meal we cover is breakfast (8 am) on the last day ), souvenirs, and baggage fees at the airport.
2024 Spring Break Camp Dates:
The Florida Keys supports rich marine ecosystems ranging from the everglades, barrier reefs, the Gulf Stream, and the Atlantic Ocean. We will get a chance to experience and explore the upper and middle Keys on this tropical adventure. Campers get the extraordinary opportunity to work with live native animals as well as participate in some amazing daily activities designed to teach them through experience instead of out of a textbook. This spring break adventure offers something new to Sea Turtle Camp – Citizen Science! Citizen science, also known as community science, or volunteer monitoring is scientific research conducted and submitted by the public. Citizen science is sometimes described as public participation in scientific research and participatory monitoring, whose outcomes are often advancements in scientific research. This, along with marine debris removals, will count towards the 10 hours of community service earned.
Activities involved with this 6-day, 5-night adventure:
- Sea Turtle Hospital tour and feeding
- Snorkel in seagrass and mangrove ecosystems
- Learning how to identify and report bleached corals
- Work at the Reef Environmental Education Foundation for an invasive species class and workshop
- Stay at Environmental Education Center- MarineLab
- Collecting and identifying diverse invertebrates of the Keys
- Marine debris cleanup and submitting numbers into an international database
- Collect, filter, and count microplastics from local waterways
Organizations our data collected will be dispersed to:
- Microplastics data collected will be submitted to SeaGrant’s Florida Microplastics Awareness Project.
- Coral bleaching identification will be submitted to Bleachwatch.
- All marine debris data collected will be submitted to Mote Marine Lab and entered into MarineLab’s in-house database for teacher use.
- Seagrass surveys and mangrove sediment cores will be submitted to MarineLab for in-house studying and use.
**Please note that all activities are subject to change without notice**
Day 1 – 3
You will arrive in Miami, Florida to begin your highly anticipated week in the Florida Keys. Once all campers arrive, we will travel as a group to our beautiful accommodations in Tavernier, Florida. At orientation, all camper rules and the schedule for the week will be explained by your counselors, who are equally excited. Then it’s off to dinner and evening activities where we will spend time getting to know each other. Afterward, we’ll head back to our beds because tomorrow we have a bright and early start, traveling south to Marathon, Florida to see some real live sea turtles! After breakfast on the second day, we’ll head straight to work at the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, where you have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the Turtle Hospital’s goals to rehabilitate injured sea turtles. You will then get to feed a live sea turtle! Then it is time to relax!
The morning of Day 3 will be spent learning about lionfish with Reef Environmental Education Foundation. We will even get to dissect a lionfish! After a quick lunch, we will start the final leg of our journey to Marine Lab in Key Largo, where we will spend the next three nights. After a quick orientation and a swim test, we dive right into some exciting marine science activities. We will gear up with our masks, fins, and snorkels and learn about the importance of having healthy seagrass and mangrove communities.
Day 4 – 6
After breakfast, we will jump in the Marine Lab boat to get up close and personal with some of the locals, which include spiny lobsters, stone crabs, and baitfish. Instructors will collect small invertebrates for further examination and discussion later this evening. Following a quick lunch, we will get back on the boat and go about four to five miles offshore to snorkel on a variety of coral reefs, such as Key Largo Dry Rocks, Grecian Rocks, and Molasses Reef. After a full day of marine adventures, we will refuel and have time to relax and reflect on the day before another early morning in the water. On day 5 we will spend a good deal of time earning some additional community service hours doing some citizen science focusing our attention on phytoplankton and marine debris. We will learn about the different types of phytoplankton and their effects on the environment by creating Harmful Algae Blooms (HABS). We will identify phytoplankton from a Largo Sound collection. MarineLab is part of the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, and the data is submitted to them for use in monitoring these HABS. After lunch, we will hop back on the boat to collect marine debris.
The marine debris program encompasses a classroom discussion, a boat trip, and a mangrove cleanup with data analysis. All of the data you collect will be submitted for real scientific research with Mote Marine Lab! Before we call it a night, we will get a hands-on activity to demonstrate the threats that sea turtles face through every stage of life. After a laid-back breakfast on day 6, it’s back to the bunks for the final packing and cleaning duties. After exchanging phone numbers and email addresses you say goodbye to all of your new found friends until you meet again next year or even this summer at another Sea Turtle Camp program!
**Schedule is subject to change. Please keep in mind that we try out best to adhere to this schedule but we cannot control mother nature, in the event of adverse weather, we have rainy-day activities in place. We cannot control canceled vendors. We will try our best to incorporate what was missed in later days, but it does not always fit into our schedule **
We are staying at MarineLab Key Largo for the entirety of our adventure. MarineLab is a wonderful non-profit environmental education center. Their mission is to use education and adventure in the Florida Keys marine ecosystem to foster environmental awareness and stewardship on a local, regional, and global scale. They offer housing, field-based learning, and many snorkel and scuba programs for 5th graders to college students and teachers.
MarineLab sits on Largo Sound in Key Largo, FL. Their main building houses air-conditioned dorm rooms and labs for the MarineLab education program, offices, restrooms, a maintenance shop, and a gift shop. In addition, they have a cafeteria and a floating conference center containing two classrooms. MarineLab is conveniently located in Key Largo, just over an hour south of Miami. This location provides quick access to both the coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Florida Bay in Everglades National Park. *You will need to pack your own twin linens for the dorms*
Three Sea Turtle staff members will always be with the group, providing 24-hour same-sex supervision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I get to see a real live sea turtle?
Yes! One of the stops on our adventure is at the sea turtle hospital located in Marathon, Florida. Here we will learn about their resident sea turtles and all the rehabilitation and research that is conducted throughout the Keys. At the end of the tour, we will get to feed some of the resident sea turtles! We will also see them at the aquarium and hopefully in the wild, while snorkeling or boating!
What kind of community service will I be doing?
Community service is one of the most rewarding aspects of this camp. All of our programs include service learning, such as beach cleanups to keep our sands sparkling because we see first hand the damage that human trash causes to turtles. Spring break campers will receive 10 hours of community service through citizen science data collection as well.
Does my child need to know how to swim to be able to attend this program?
Yes. Due to the nature of this program, all campers must be able to swim and have a basic level of comfort in the water.
I am a finicky eater. Can you cater to special diets?
We can accommodate many varieties of food preferences. If you require a special diet, we are happy to work with you to ensure your dietary needs are met. However, for travel programs this can be a bit harder due to the nature of the program and moving around – we are not in our confined cafeteria like our North Carolina Residential program in Topsail.
What do I need to bring?
A complete packing list will be included with your camp forms, once you’ve completed the enrollment process. Please pack in a soft sided suitcase (duffel bag) to fit in our vans!
Can I call home during camp?
We have all campers check in with their parents upon arrival, but we have limited parental contact for the duration of the camp. Sea Turtle Camp is a growing experience, and we find that young people do best and gain confidence through independence. Campers are NOT allowed to carry cell phones at any time during camp. Any cell phones brought to camp will be collected upon arrival and returned upon departure. Parents will be updated through emails and the many pictures we’ll be posting on Facebook throughout the trip! We will provide an after-hours number to reach the office in the event of an emergency.
Is my camper allowed to bring electronic devices?
At Sea Turtle Camp, we promote immersive, hands-on learning experiences that are free from electronic distractions. While campers are allowed to bring cell phones and electronic devices for their arrival and departure days, once they have checked in with their parents/guardians and settled into camp, all electronic devices must be surrendered to our camp staff. These devices will be securely stored throughout the duration of the trip. It’s important to note that if any electronic device is discovered in a camper’s possession after the initial handover, it will be confiscated, and appropriate measures will be taken. However, we do permit campers to bring MP3 players and e-books. Please be aware that any device capable of connecting to Wi-Fi is not allowed.
“My daughter had a great experience. The staff was communicative, friendly & kept the kids busy with fun and educational activities. I think the two biggest compliments that came from my daughter were: 1) I did not miss my phone and being offline for a week. 🙂 2) I had a blast, made new friends and wish that Sea Turtle Camp was two weeks. :)”
“Great 1st time experience for my 16 year old. I was unsure about the no phone policy, but the camp kept them busy and posted plenty of pictures daily. Very organized, very clean, staff had great communication with the parents. She had a great time. She said the food was delicious, she made new friends, received community service hours and has finally decided what she wants to do when she graduates! It’s been 2 weeks and she is still talking about it. Would definitely recommend and can’t wait til next year!“