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Sandy students test their sea legs

Oceanic science students visit San Francisco for the sixth year


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ANDY WEX - Forty students and four adults ventured to San Francisco Oct. 10-13 with Sandy High's oceanic science teacher, Andy Wex. The group spotted 22 whales the first day of their trip, boating through Farallon National Marine Preserve.

In mid-October, Sandy High School oceanic science students once again ventured to San Francisco to experience marine biology firsthand.

“We had an unbelievable experience and opportunity to see things most people don’t get to see in a lifetime, and we got to see these things in four days,” said science teacher Andy Wex.

This is the sixth year Wex has traveled with oceanic science students to San Francisco for a fall trip. Members of Aquanauts, a club extension of Wex’s class, also have participated.

For their first day, the group of 40 students and four adults chartered a 60-foot motor boat through Out Limits, which took them to Farallon National Marine Preserve.

A marine biologist helped students map out their entire trip with nautical charts, adding pinpoints along the way as the group spotted fish, birds and whales.

This year, the group saw about 20 Hunchback whales and two Blue whales, an unusual experience for a cold, cloudy and windy day.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ANDY WEX - The oceanic science crew spotted 20 Hunchback whales and two Blue whales, an unsual experience for a cold, windy day.

“This was more of a wavy ride than last year. I was always on the bow, looking out for whales,” Logan McLain, a senior, said. “I realized how much I had learned from last year and how I could apply it in real life when I saw the animals. The first trip was amazing, but the second time was even more fun.”

Wex noted the older students sometimes become the teachers, articulating all kinds of knowledge about the organisms they learned about the previous year.

As he looks ahead to college, McLain is contemplating studying marine biology and attending Mt. Hood Community College or Oregon State University next year.

Like in past years, the group visited Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, the Marine Mammal Center, a state-of-the-art, internationally renowned marine mammal rehabilitation center, and the California Academy of Sciences, “the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a four-story rainforest all under one roof.”

At the Marine Mammal Center, students were able to play “vet detective,” a simulation of what first-year vet students do figuring out what ails their animal patients.

Wex and McLain described California Academy of Sciences’ extensive aquarium, globe-shaped terrarium and full rain forest from canopy to canopy, that reaches higher and higher to a Central American butterfly garden.

Wex said the fall field trip has become a well planned and orchestrated affair over the past six years, with a fellow science teacher, Josh Kanable from Cedar Ridge Middle School, serving as a chaperone this year.

“I was most impressed by our kids,” Wex said. “They are a sharp group.”

Wex hopes to eventually offer an advanced ocean science class and accompanying field trip.

To learn more about Wex’s classes and San Francisco field trips, email Andy.Wex@ortrai.k12.or.us.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ANDY WEX - Logan McLain, a Sandy High senior, plans to study marine biology after high school.

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