Heidi Painter, PVCS English Teacher
Imagine basking in the sizzling summer sun, spending time with your friends, snorkeling in a crystal clear river, and swimming with manatees. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a great vacation, you’re wrong – partially.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience was an optional summer field trip, called Habitat H2O, for 34 students from Penn View Christian School. One student, Maddie Clemens said, “It was the best part of my summer.” And, while the students really enjoyed themselves, this trip was not just fun and games. This educational trip provided a new threshold for an appreciation of and participation in scientific studies.
Current and former Penn View Christian Middle School students were led by Harry Anselmo, 7th grade Science teacher, and accompanied by several parent chaperones to the Gulf Coast of Florida this summer. Their mission was to observe natural ecology and life in the fresh water, salt water, and brackish water areas between Tampa and Sarasota. Students were expected to log journal entries and attend classes where they learned about food chains, food webs, and the importance of annual flooding. Esther Frustino even recalled being able to dissect a shark!
In addition to the studious part of the trip, students were able to deepen their appreciation for God’s creation while interacting with and engaging in discussions about the wonder of God’s unique design. Three highlights included swimming with manatees, snorkeling down Rainbow River, and a canopy walk through Myakka River State Park. Mr. Anselmo reflects that students were delighted by the response of the manatees as they did belly rolls. He also added that it was interesting to observe students’ individual growth while overcoming personal obstacles such as putting on flippers for the first time or handling a leaky face mask.
Students grew in their love and understanding of science, and they grew in their relationship with their teacher. Sam Wilkins remarked that, “Mr. A is always funny in class, but in Florida, he was so funny that I couldn’t believe it was the same person!” In sharing the simple acts of sleeping, eating, and learning, “we became like a family,” comments Mr. Anselmo.
The concept of this trip had been an idea in Mr. Anselmo’s mind for a while, but when he found the organization World Strides, he knew it was a good fit for Penn View. Though the organization is not Christian, the program, which Mr. Anselmo found to be more educationally based than many, offered a multitude of opportunities for discussion about God and the design of creation. Colleen Mynaugh thought, “This trip showed that God’s love for the world is amazing.” She went on to say, “This was the probably one of the best experiences of my life.”
The learning, however, did not end in Florida. Mr. Anselmo admits to having frequent discussions with students about things they observed, learned, and experienced while on the trip this past summer. Students who were perhaps too young to participate this time are already anticipating the next science trip that Mr. Anselmo will be offering. Penn View Christian School is pleased to offer opportunities for learning during the summer months and hopes to continue this in the future.