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Little Marine Explorers Learn About the USGS

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Some of the Little Marine Explorers
Above: Some of the Little Marine Explorers, with an important landmark for St. Petersburg residents—The Pier—in the background. The campers enjoyed catching and identifying fish in nets along The Pier seawall.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s St. Petersburg Science Center in St. Petersburg, FL, helped sponsor the Little Marine Explorers Summer Camp with The Pier Aquarium on June 21-25. The camp taught children entering kindergarten through second grade how science is involved in everything. Even the daily snack had an educational message, from learning which animals live where in an estuary, to using a straw to understand how core samples of the Earth are collected.

The children enjoyed coloring and investigating animals on the USGS' SOFIA Kid's Page. The campers kept busy finding out about sharks, catching and identifying fish, looking at sediment cores, and touring The Pier Aquarium. The USGS and The Pier Aquarium logos were on the camp T-shirts.

The camp provided a great opportunity for USGS employees to figure out what material is age appropriate for the upcoming annual USGS open house in St. Petersburg. Next year, the USGS may participate in a camp for older students that is sponsored by The Pier Aquarium and local environmental agencies.

Tampa Bay Estuary Recipe

(A tasty summer recipe to make with the kids)

1 bag gummy worms (worms)
2 boxes instant chocolate pudding / add milk (mud)
1 bag oyster crackers (oysters)
1 bag stick pretzels (mangrove roots)
1 bag chocolate chips (snails)
1 box goldfish crackers (fish)
1 box golden raisins (shrimp)
1 bag grated coconut / colored green with food coloring (sea grass)
1 box vanilla wafers (bedrock)
1 bottle yellow sprinkles (sand)
1 bottle star sprinkles (sea stars)
1 9" x 11" foil pan (estuary)
1 big spoon

First, begin by explaining what an estuary is to the children helping you create the snack. An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water in which river water is mixed with sea water, creating brackish water. An estuary is similar to a baby nursery. An estuary is where baby fish and sea animals grow up.

Tell the children that a layer of bedrock is on the bottom of an estuary. Cover the bottom of the foil pan with semicrushed (be sure to keep some chunks) vanilla wafers. The easiest way to crush the vanilla wafers is in a large Ziploc bag.

Ask the children what they think covers the bedrock. What covers the bottom of Tampa Bay under the sand? A layer of mud covers the bedrock. Generously apply a layer of instant chocolate pudding over the vanilla wafers, using a large spoon.

Ask the children what animals live in the mud. (You will receive a thousand different answers.) The answer you want is worms. The child who provides the right answer is allowed to spread gummy worms throughout the pan (use approximately 15).

Ask what plant has long prop roots, grows near the shoreline, and plays an important role in preventing coastal erosion. The answer is mangroves. The pretzel sticks can be placed in the mud along the edge of the pan.

Ask what animal they think lives on the walls, mangrove roots, and "in beds" in an estuary. The correct answer is oysters. The child who answers correctly can line the edges of the pan with the oyster crackers and make a circle of about five oysters in the mud, called an oyster bed.

What covers the mud on the bottom of the ocean? Sand covers the sea floor. The yellow sprinkles can be used to represent sand.

Then, in a snack-size Ziploc bag, combine grated coconut and several drops of green food coloring. Ask what green plants grow on the bottom of Tampa Bay. Sea grass grows on the sea floor. The student who answers correctly can put small bunches of sea grass throughout the center of the pan.

What animals live in the sea grass? Snails, sea stars, fish, and shrimp, to name a few. Let the children be creative and list everything they can imagine. Snails, fish, and sea stars can be found in the sand, sea grass, and in the mangroves (edge of pan). The shrimp are primarily hidden in the sea grass. Have the children add the corresponding ingredients—chocolate chips, star sprinkles, goldfish crackers, golden raisins—to the pan.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Celebrates Earth Science Week with an Open House in St. Petersburg, FL
Dec. 2003 / Jan. 2004
MarineQuest X—USGS Supports Florida Marine Research Institute's Open House
June 2004

Related Web Sites
SOFIA Kid's Page
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
St. Petersburg Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Pier Aquarium
non-profit public aquarium

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Mapping the South Essex Ocean Sanctuary

Gas-Hydrate Mounds

Cruise to California Seamounts

Outreach Little Marine Explorers Summer Camp

Scientists Interviewed for Documentary

The National Map Comes to Florida

Meetings 10th International Coral Reef Symposium

Awards USGS Video Receives Silver Telly Award

Staff & Center News Geographer Joins USGS in St. Petersburg

Geologist Joins USGS in St. Petersburg

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