Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
It's actually Saturday when I am finally getting around to posting our Thursday experiences. Yesterday Friday the 19th began with our bus pulling in to JFH at about 1:10 am. It took no time at all for our guys to get off the bus, get their luggage and head on home. We had all fallen asleep in the bus on the way home from the airport. Personally I did not get to bed until 2:45am and got up at 6:15. I caught up today though as I stayed in bed until 1pm. Friday was quite the challenge for all of us. Everyone had to come and check in with Mrs. Rhodes and myself during homeroom - we had some sugar (chocolate) for everyone to help them stay awake through out the day. The all grabbed handfuls and then headed on to get their make up work. Everyone made it to school and everyone made it through the entire day. We had a pep rally at the end of the school day where Madison and Desiree did cheers, Celena and Kendra represented the girl's 8th grade basketball team, Thomas, Jacob and Quintas represented the boy's 8th grade basket ball team and Drew, Jacob, Tristan and Thomas represented the wrestling team. As this was not enough our WS group also ran the consession stand during the dance that took place right after school. Everyone did well, BUT it was nice to be able to go home once it was all over. I think we can all agree on that. Hopefully everyone got to rest some today and can continue unpacking and resting up tomorrow.
So back to Thursday and our great day at Bush Gardens in Tampa. The day began with a 6:30am wake up call. Each room had 30 minutes to get themselves ready and packed up and be downstairs for breakfast. We decided the night before that we would have a "cleanest room contest" to make sure the rooms were left in descent condition. For some reason these guys managed to accumulate quite the bit of trash over the two days we stayed their. Mrs. Diaz, Mrs. Bowman and Kristin were our judges. Everyone really got into this contest and left the rooms looking great. What made the difference were those little extras. In 3rd place we had Drew, Brett, Jody and Jordan who decided to fold the dirt towels nicely for the maid. In second place were Kendra, Katie and Carrie who also made sure the dirty towels were left for the maid in a nice way. Our winners were Desiree and Shayla, who not only rolled the towels, but also left a nice note for the maid. Well done everyone!!!!!
We boarded the bus after lading up all of our luggage and headed for Bush Gardes around 7:40am. Once we arrived we were met by the educators that were going to take us through 3 different stations. We were together with Elkton and Montevideo today and were split into 3 groups. During the Safari - where we were all standing on a fenced in flat bed truck - we had the opportunity to see many different Serengeti animals such as Bongos, Zebras and Giraffes. The Giraffes had all been conditioned to come up to the truck when we stopped. We each received lettuce leaves and had the opportunity to feed the Giraffes. This was an amazing experience. Several of us also got to touch the Giraffes and be on an eye to eye level with them. We learned why the tongue is black - an adaptation that works as sun screen since the Giraffe eats for the majority of the day and it's tongue is outside it's mouth during that time. Giraffes also have 7 vertebra just like humans but they are just much larger. Each giraffe's coloring and patterns are unique and helps the keepers keep track of who is who. Zebras are really not black and white, they are brown and white. If you get really close you can see this. No Zebra has the same stripe pattern as any other Zebra and their coloring helps them to blend in - Zebras travel in groups and their stripes makes them look like one big blob instead of separate animals. The next station we visited involved learning about how to identify animals by using skull. Were you aware that you can look at an animals type of teeth, the size of and location of their eye socket and the size of the nasal passage to determine if the animal is an herbivore, carnivore or omnivore? A large eye socket indicated the animal is nocturnal and hunts at night. A larger eye will let in more light than a small eye. Sharp incisors and no molars tells us we have a carnivore. An animal with a large nasal cavity is one that can smell much better than one with a small nasal cavity. Finally we learned bout genetic diversity and how animals in Zoo's are breed to keep the diversity as great as possible. This was done by playing a little matching game - One bachelor and 3 bachelorettes and only one perfect match. This was very educational and funny at the same time. At this same station we met Safari a Hyacinth Macaw and she showed us how strong her beak was by cracking a walnut and eating it. Safari - a very beautiful blue bird - had been given to the park by a private individual who could not take care of her any more.
It was now time for free time which everyone looked forward to immensely. Kristin, who used to work at Bush Gardens, had told us all about the cool roller coasters, especially SheiKra (200 feet up, 90 degrees straight down). This was a very popular coaster and many of us road it several times. While the kids explored the park, Kristin guided the adults around the park and made sure we got to visit with all the animals - elephants, rhinos, Gorillas, chimps, snakes, tigers, and much much more. Kristin had a friends who took the adults to visit with the baby kangaroos, wallaby's and the cucsus (all marsupials from Australia). We also got to hand feed the flamingos. Wow!!!
2:45 pm came way to fast. We gathered at the exit, took one last group picture and loaded the bus. On the ride to the airport Kristin asked us all to close our eyes and reflect on our experiences this past week. She guided us through the different days and the different experiences and adventures we had had. What an awesome way to wrap up and end this once in a life time trip.
Check in went very well since AirTran had already printed all of our boarding passes and were ready for us. The line to security was quite long and it took us a while to get through. Mrs. Nicholas found out the hard way that snow globes can not go onto the airplane but must be checked in your luggage that go under the plane. So what to do? The TSA agent was great and instructed Mrs. Nicholas on what to do and within 25 minutes she had returned to the main terminal, located the UPS store and shipped her snow globes and joined the group after going through security a second time - this time she got to skip the line.
The first flight went well and we landed right on time. Our connecting flight to Dulles left from the exact same gate we left from to go from Atlanta to Orlando last Saturday. While waiting to board we had dinner and enjoyed some down time. We boarded around 8:30 pm and the flight took off right on time at 9:05pm. After arriving at Dulles and getting our luggage we had a final head count and headed towards the bus. Almost home. Tired but very pleased with this exciting week we settled in an went over a few announcements - Friday is an even day, wear green for the pep rally, come check in with Mrs. Nicholas in am and finally Mrs. Rhodes and Mrs. Nicholas expressed how proud we are and how amazing the kids had been all week.
Last announcement - Now sleep. And so we did.
Posted by JFHMS at 5:08 PM
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
It just keeps getting better and better each day!!!! Getting up at 4:30 am was so worth it. We started off with a hot continental breakfast before boarding our charter bus around 5:30am. After a quick briefing on today's activities everyone took a needed nap 1 hr nap. It was time to wake up approximately 30 minutes before arrival at the Pro Dive shop so we could watch a safety video on swimming with Manatees. At the Pro shop we were met by our guides for the day - Dude (Mike) and Mr. Todd - both expert Manatee spotters and guides we were told. Masks, snorkels, fins and wet suits were handed out to make sure everyone had the correct size flippers and the most snug wetsuit possible that you could get onto your body. What a sigh, 33 people undressing.....down to their swim suits and then pulling on their wet suits. Some of us were lucky to get a perfect fit right away, others had to make them selves get out of the suit and then try on another one. Once back on the bus our driver took us 10 minutes down the road to the where Pro Dive docks their boats for the Manatee swimming excursions. We divided up into 2 fairly equally sized groups, boarded the vessel and headed out into the channel - the Crystal River. "Dude" gave us a run down of the safety procedures of the pontoon boat and how we should and should not behave and act around the Manatees. Todd quickly spotted several Manatees, got in and made sure this group of Manatees wanted for us to interact with them today. We got the thumbs up and quickly got our masks, snorkels and fins on.
With the air temperature not being much higher than 40 degrees the 72 degree water felt wonderful as we eased ourselves off of the boats into the channel. Each of us also entered the water with a life west to be used as a floating device. Time for the BIG question - Were we going to actually get to see and touch Manatees or would they not want to interact with us? We were in luck and found a nice big group of about 12-15 Manatees that ranged from 2 young juvenile Manatees to over 10 ft long adults. Often if you found one resting on the bottom, others would quickly arrive. It was almost like they did not want to be left out of what ever it was that was going on - people admiring them, paying attention to them and scratching their backs and bellies. At first the skin felt very slimy (alga growth), then once you scratched some of the alga off you were able to feel the sandpaper like skin. A Manatee can stay submerged for up to 20 minutes before needing to come up for air. Once they came up for air we would be able to observe their tiny little eyes, hairs on their stubby snouts and come face to face with them. As we were all interacting with the Manatees, "Dude" recorded it all. Awesome!!! What was really awesome was to see a juvenile Manatee nursing. Manatees' mammary glands are located under their pectoral flippers. This too was recorded on the DVD. Before we knew it we had stayed in the water for an hour give or take a few minutes.
Here came the test - would we freeze like popsicles once we got back onto the boats and took off our wet suits. It WAS very cold, but surprisingly not as freezing cold as we had all anticipated. On the boat ride back to the dock, Todd and "Dude" made sure we warmed up some by serving some VERY HOT chocolate. We returned to the pro dive shop to do some shopping, watch our DVD and just soak in the adventure we had just experienced.
For lunch we boarded the bus again and headed to KP Hole Park and the rainbow River. We hung up our "wet" suits and towels, grab our packed lunches and sat down in a warm sunny area and enjoyed a very tasty lunch. As we sat there Kristin heard and then actually spotted a baled eagle. When it was announced that we would leave for our second adventure of the day. the realization that we had to get back into those "wet" suits became chillingly real. This time the boats took us upstream about 1.5 miles and anchored. Like old pros we got our gear on and got into the water. Mr. Todd went ahead of us with the dive flag and this giant blob of yellow, black and blue began moving. Get this - you DO NOT have to kick when there is a 1 knot current. Not too many of us got it, so Mr. Todd made the group turn around and swim up stream to slow us down. Along the river "Dude" pointed out land marks such as chimney vents, caverns, fish and birds. The water was crystal clear and once you realized all you had to do was lay on your tummy, put your head down and float, absorption of this beautiful underwater world became easy. We stopped several times to free dive at a few caverns, look for treasures - fossils, and observe different fish. Mrs. Rhodes found a pieces of petrified wood.
We got a cake for Quintas since today was his birthday. This gave everyone enough time to get their stuff back to their rooms, hang up any wet stuff before it was time for the PIzza Party.
We had dinner this evening with the World Strides students form Montevideo and Elkton Middle Schools. It was nice for everyone to get to hang out together - especially the adults. MMS and EMS had their wrap up of the day right after dinner and we met at 7:30pm. This pm we recapped our Sea World experience along with today's fantastic excursions. Before free time we celebrated Quitas with cake and song.
It's hard to believe tomorrow is our last day here. We have a crammed packed day planned at Bush Gardens so we can leave for the Tampa airport around 2:30pm. Stay tuned!!!!!
Posted by JFHMS at 7:37 PM
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
We left the hotel promptly at 7 am in order to meet up with our two Y.E.S. (Youth Educator Services) instructors (Ben and Megan)at the bus drop off at The Magic Kingdom. To make things simple we decided to split up in to the same two groups that we had yesterday at Sea World. The "lesson" for the day - physics lesson about kinetic and potential energy, Newton's first law of Inertia, speed, acceleration, velocity, momentum, and centripetal force began while we rode the Monorail to The Magic Kingdom. The next three hours were spent with Ben and Megan learning and reviewing all about physical science, specifically those concepts relating to amusement park rides.
Since the park did not open until 9 am we got to walk down Main Street US all by ourselves and then had our group picture taken in front of Cinderella's Castle. Then it was off to Tomorrow land and Space Mountain. Before we actually got to ride the roller coaster we did a hands on activity testing which type of roller coaster - loop, hill, or turn - required the most and the least potential energy. What do you think? The loop takes more potential energy than either of the other two. After the experiment it was time to actually ride the roller coaster. First we rode it with the lights on and then in complete darkness. Wow what a difference. It felt much faster and "scarier" than with the lights on.
Our second ride for the day was Buzz Lightyears's Space Ranger Spin. While playing this fun filled video inspired game we also observed the differences between hydraulic and pneumatic movement of the attraction characters such as Buzz Lightyear and the Evil Emperor Zurg. Our top scorer of the day reached well above 130 000 points - go Madison - while slighly challenged Mrs. Nicholas (who was trying to take pictures instead of saving Buzz and friends) only scored 3100 points.
Next Ben and Megan took us clear across the park to Frontier Land where we had the opportunity to experience centripetal force, G-force and lateral G's while riding The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was so much fun!!. Kristin got us fast passes for this roller coaster, so we got to ride it twice.
Other rides enjoyed in the Magic Kingdom were Pirates of the Carabean and The Haunted Mansion. We did these as a group and then had lunch. It was nice to sit down and rest some and come in from the cold - 50 degrees and very windy.
We then met up again around 12:45 pm and headed out of the park to take the bus to Hollywood Studios. Once we had passed through security, received maps, show schedules and dinner meal cards everyone took off in a different directions to ride different rides ( Aero Smith Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Star Wars Flight simulator), watch live shows (Beauty and the Beast. Parade) or one of the other shows (Muppets 3D). The stunt show Lights, motors, action was a show that quite a few of us decided to watch. The cold weather and pure exhaustion many of us were experiencing by dinner time kept us inside some of the restaurants and shops instead of go from show to show and standing in sometimes 1-2 hour long lines. For some 7:45pm did not come fast enough.
Our bus picked us up at 8 pm. During our 75 min. ride to Tampa we recapped the day at The Magic Kingdom and were informed of what Wed. and swimming with the manatees would entail. Many of us managed to get in a few Zzzzzz as well.
Tomorrow we will again have to get up very early in order to get to the Manatee location on time - 4:30am.
Posted by JFHMS at 7:48 PM
Monday, February 15, 2010
I think we can all agree that sleeping in this morning felt great. Our departure for Sea World was not until 9 am which gave everyone plenty of time to get ready and enjoy a tasty breakfast - except for Mrs. Nicholas and Mrs. Rhodes who ended up grabbing their breakfast to go and ate on the bus. What's up with that!!
At Sea World we were met by two park educators - Dave and Rachel - who became our personal tours guides for the day. We split up into 2 groups to make it easier to move around the park. Rachel's group began their day in the classroom - a very fun hands on lesson in taxonomy and identification of animals by looking at different skulls. Then they took a quick detour to the Sting Ray petting area before visiting the Animal Hospital area of the park. Only authorized team members and special visitors like us are allowed here. Injured animals like manatees, sea turtles and different sea birds are brought here for medical care. Due to the extreme cold they have had over 300 sea turtles brought in since January this year compared to an average of 30-40 in a year. Most of these Sea turtles have been returned to the ocean.
Dave took his group to shark display followed by the seals and sea lions. Did you know that seals are very non social and non communicative animals and therefore do not make many sounds or have outer ears? Sea lions on the other hand talk a lot with each other. At the Shark exhibit we got a special behind the scenes explanation of why humans fear sharks so much. Sharks are actually NOT killing machines. You are more likely to die from lightning than being attacked by a shark. Every year
100 000 000 sharks are killed by people. In the aquarium we walked through the shark tunnel and also saw Barracudas,Leafy Dragon fish and Lion fish.
Next it was time for the Dolphin show. WOW!! This was a spectacular show with as many as 6 dolphins performing at one time. They also had a False Killer Whale show us her talents. Luckily we did not sit in the splash zone.
Time for lunch. We got our $10 meal cards and went off in small groups to different eateries. Most of the adults decided to have BBQ chicken - very tasty. After lunch our two groups went their separate ways again basically doing what the other group had done before lunch. Once again we met up for a marine mammal show - this time it was the Killer Whales' turn to show off and boy did they ever. These are such amazing, humongous and majestic animals. It's hard to believe that humans and Killer Whales are able to communicate and work together in such an amazing way.
Our final stop was the Polar Bear exhibit. Polar Bears are omnivores and do not hibernate. Their hairs are translucent and hollow and their skin is black. These are adaptations that make it possible for them to survive in the cold sometimes harsh environment of the Artic. Polar bears are above humans on the food chain and at Sea World the animal handlers do not go into the Polar bear area while the bear is still there. It has to be tranquilized in order for them to do anything with it.
The rest of the time in the park was "free time". Most of our group decided to ride one of the two roller coasters they have at Sea World. Mr. Alderfer and Mrs. Rhodes gave the Manta - a coaster where you fly face-down, in a horizontal, underneath the bely of a coaster train shaped as a giant manta - thumbs up. Dinner was again eaten in small groups at one of the restaurants. It started raining just as we were heading out of the park.
Once back at the hotel we gathered for a wrap up session about yesterdays activities at EPCOT (as we did not get to do that last night). We talked about the IllumiNation story and also made sure everyone had the correct answers to their journal questions.
This gave us time to hang out some and also play in the pool before lights out at 10pm.
Tomorrow we begin our day bright and early at Magic Kingdom, at 7:15am to be exact.
Posted by JFHMS at 8:05 PM
Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's 12:10 am and technically our 2nd day has begun. Hopefully everyone is in bed and asleep. It's been a LONG day, BUT a very exciting, fun, educational and exhilarating day. The bus took us directly to EPCOT, where we after going through the security check stopped for a quick group picture in front of Space ship Earth. Kristin handed out our meal vouchers and off we went to "The Land" food court for some lunch - sandwiches, salads and Asian choices. Half an hour later with full tummies we all headed back to Space Ship Earth for the actual ride and enjoyed learning about how humans have communicated through out time. Boy have we come a long way - from cave drawings to the www. The ride ended with a cool interactive video of the passengers of each "space ship" (see video). Next we headed to "The Universe of Energy" where Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy (our favorite) taught us all about energy (solar, wind, hydro), fossil fuels (petroleum/oil, gas and coal), and fission and fusion. We also had the chance the travel back in time to visit with the dinosaurs. Along with this ride students were asked to answer several questions in their journal workbooks.
Our third and final "group ride" for the day was "The Land". This boat ride taught us about how we as humans have the greatest impact on our land - earth - and that we can chose to take care of our land or not. In the green house part we experienced many different ways of hydroponics (growing with out soil). Boy did the fruits and vegetables look tasty. The flowers and trees were beautiful as well. We also learned about fish farming and how this can help preserve endangered species.
While we had been riding and learning, Kristin had been working hard and had got Fast Track Passes for two additional rides - "Test Track" and "Mission: Space" These rides were enjoyed by most towards the end of the day at EPCOT. The late afternoon and early evening hours were spent exploring the World Showcase, enjoying dinner (the adults all ate at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco) and riding more rides. At 8:20 it was time to meet up again so we could end a perfect day with a perfect show - the " IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" fireworks light show in front of the World showcase. It was spectacular!!!!
Tomorrow or that is today in about 8 hours we will be heading to Sea World for the day.
Posted by JFHMS at 9:10 PM
The wake up call came at 3:30am and surprisingly everyone got up without a problem. Maybe that is because some decided never to go to bed. After a quick breakfast at the hotel the bus picked us up at 4:15 am and took us to Dulles - AirTran terminal. The check in process was quit laborious and even though we got to the airport almost 2 hrs before takeoff, we only had 7 minutes before the doors shut once we got to the gate. Talk about cutting it close.
Our FIRST flight - which was the very first flight ever for many of the students - went very well (1 hr and 20 min) to Atlanta, GA. As we descended we could see snow on the ground. We has almost an hour layover and enjoyed some down time in the terminal - coffee, snacks and walking around kept us busy. At 9 am it was time to board flight 868 for Orlando, FL. Again things went very well and we arrived in Orland ahead of schedule.
Kristin - our course leader - met us at the baggage claim and gave us instructions for the day before we headed out to the bus with all of our luggage. Orlando was sunny but still cold - barely 50 degrees.
Posted by JFHMS at 8:48 PM