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Mountain Kids Hit The Beach

CATALINA — More than 50 willing and eligible 8th grade students from Oak Creek Intermediate (OCI) embarked on a special experience last month to mark their promotion from middle to high school.

Eager classmates along with two experienced teachers and seven patient parent chaperones, sailed 26 miles off the coast of southern California to Catalina Island for a three day science-based field trip.What could be better than mountain kids at the beach?

Annually for about 14 years, OCI grads have adventured to the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) Outdoor Science Camp at Cherry Cove. The program focuses on experimental science, using hands-on labs and equipment in-house and in the vast field of the Pacific Ocean.

CIMI participating students kayak - overhead view - Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia LazarCatalina Island is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth, and even visitors from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia marvel at the tall, swaying kelp forests that blanket the ocean floor all around.

CIMI offers lessons on snorkeling, kayaking, sea life, island ecology, astronomy and more.

Volunteer Virginia Lazar was one of the parent chaperones.

“Personally, I was a bit apprehensive about the whole trip, especially the 6 hour bus ride with 50 to 60 teenagers,” recalls Lazar, referring to the initial drive down from Oakhurst to Long Beach where the ship departs and returns. “All in all, it was a great time.”

Oak Creek Intermediate students orientation in Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia LazarOCI students were excited to participate in labs and field activities involving fish, rays and sharks, invertebrates, marine mammals, plankton and algae. Kids thrived on the exposure, whether it was the activity itself or just getting ready for fun.

“My observation was that the kids loved the more adventurous parts of the camp, the night snorkel and the kayaking. Putting on the wetsuits for the first time was one of the most exciting things for my group,” laughs Lazar, “they loved strutting around with them on.”

Oak Creek Intermediate students study the view from atop Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia LazarCIMI’s Cherry Cove campus is poised on a private cove with tents, and cots with mattresses. The dining hall was apparently also an important part of the trip for many visitors.

Lazar says the food was great and the CIMI staff was “awesome.” Soon-to-be-high-schooler Thomas Lazar, 14, agrees.

“I think the best part about the trip was the food,” confirms the young epicurean. “It was delicious. I love how all of it was homemade.”

Oak Creek Intermediate students study sea life in Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia LazarOne of the hardest parts of the trip, according to Thomas Lazar, was to avoid exhaustion from the start.

“The most challenging part was staying up the first day,” he says. “Most of us stayed up during the trip getting there, then we had to endure the challenge of staying up the rest of the day with activities.”

The Catalina trip was paid for by parent contributions and lots of effort on the part of OCI’s Parent Teacher Club (PTC). Whether it was via Spaghetti Dinner and Silent Auction, school sponsored dances, cookie dough fundraisers or family donations, enough money was raised so that every child who wanted to go on the trip was able to do so.

The OCI PTC teachers and students start raising fundraising for this trip when kids are in 6th grade. All concerned hope it will continue annually regardless of continual assaults to the school’s budget.

Oak Creek Intermediate students occupy their tent cabins in Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia LazarStudents like Thomas Lazar feel the trip should, if anything, be expanded.

“I think we need to change it to five days,” he posits. “With three days, it seems like you get there and then you leave. It will cost a little more but I think it’d be worth it.”

Great job, CIMI, always leave them wanting more!

Parent chaperones on the trip, besides Lazar, included Terry Luther, Tony McLean, Robert Haas, Joe Thacker, Phil Thearle and Shelly Arnest.

Oak Creek Intermediate volunteer parents and teachers prepare to depart for Catalina 2013 - Photo Credit Virginia Lazar8th grade teachers accompanying students were Rhiannon Dewey and Erik Peterson. Bus driver Cliff Neufeld delivered everyone safely to and fro.

Oak Creek Intermediate is part of the Bass Lake Unified School District. For more information contact BLUSD

For information about Catalina Island Marine Institute contact CIMI

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