|By Chris Maza|
WILBRAHAM On Jan. 31, five Wilbraham & Monson Academy students left for Florida to take part in a unique public service and educational voyage.
Three freshman and two sophomore girls from the United States and abroad will have the chance to come face-to-face and work with sea creatures including dolphins and sea turtles as they learn how they can affect change in the global ecological community.
Over the course of five days in Marathon Key, Fla., students will take part in a beach cleanup, interact with marine mammals at the Dolphin Research Center and work at The Turtle Hospital.
The service project is part of the school's yearlong academic theme of water and is being undertaken by WMAction, Wilbraham & Monson Academy's community service initiative.
Emily Gaylord, one of the coaches of WMAction, said she was glad to have a young, enthusiastic group to teach the value of service.
"First and foremost, I would like to introduce these students to the benefits of community service," she said. "There is no better feeling."
Gaylord went on to explain that the term "community service" is not relegated to the local community, but also to the larger global community, a message she said she hoped would be driven home through this excursion.
"We have a duty to serve with everything on this planet in a way that benefits everything," she said. "It's hugely important. The ocean is one of our greatest resources and water and community service go hand in hand."
Gaylord explained that interest in such a trip was spurred by a public screening of the documentary, "The Cove," which illustrated abuse of marine life, including dolphins, in a cove near Taiji, Japan.
"We did this screening to show how dolphins are treated worldwide," Gaylord said. "The immediate reaction was, 'Why not give it a more real, community service aspect?'"
With that in mind, the students will spend time at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon Key, Fla., learning about one of the ocean's most intelligent creatures.
"I'm not sure what it is about dolphins that makes people so interested," Gaylord said. "It's probably because they are so loveable and so intelligent."
The nonprofit research and education facility prides itself upon aiding sea mammals, such as dolphins, manatees and sea lions with many such animals living on site.
The majority of the center's educational opportunities are hands-on, allowing the students to touch, play, swim, or even paint with dolphins.
The students will also spend time at the Turtle Hospital, which, among other things, helps rehabilitate injured turtles with the intention of returning them to the wild.
Those interested in learning more about the students' experiences can follow along with them through the WMAction blog on the school's website, www.wma.us.
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