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Rain may have been steadily pouring down on an early April day, but Ingenuity Charter students didn’t let that deter them from spending an afternoon at La Jolla Shores & Birch Aquarium.

They were there to learn about the grunion, a fish that despite all odds, swims onshore each spring season to spawn a new generation. Ingenuity Charter students share that same strong sense of determination; to succeed, push forward and reach higher through the school’s unique blended learning environment.

The April field trip was a first for Ingenuity students, with grades sixth through 12th working together to ask focused questions about the grunion, water quality, and geological and biological conditions that make La Jolla Shores a target destination for the fish.

Birch Aquarium educational instructors led the exercises before taking students on a tour at the aquarium. Instructor Kate Jirik said Ingenuity students are looking into questions about the grunion that many scientists haven’t even gotten to yet.

“What they’re doing is really cutting-edge science,” Jirik said. “We’re looking at why do they come here? A lot of scientists haven’t even investigated this.”

Students worked in groups to detail biological conditions that may affect the fish, digging into the sand to find the animals that live there. Next, students measured the slope of the beach and the temperature, pH and oxygen levels of the water.

But the fieldtrip was so much more than a science lesson for Ingenuity students. For some, it was their first time at the beach, or seeing a seal up-close as it swam near the shore, or even their first time critically considering the environment around them. The fieldtrip was an opportunity to forge peer relationships outside the classroom, encouraging students to explore, getting their hands dirty (and clothes a bit damp) through an outdoor experience.

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“We learned that since El Niño season, the beach is sloping more than usual,” eighth grader Larry Jackson said. “It was my first time going to the beach, and I didn’t expect the rainy weather, but my favorite part was seeing the waves crash near the shore.”

The in-field science lab exercises and tour of Birch Aquarium all aligned with state Common Core educational standards, placing a focus on learning through doing.

Ingenuity teacher Stephen Schilling said the fieldtrip was a great way to learn science by applying it in real-life situations.

“It’s hands-on and tangible, which is what Common Core curriculum sets out to have students experience and understand,” Schilling said. “They’re applying science to real-life issues by taking samples and analyzing the data.”

Students then took a tour at the Birch Aquarium where they observed seahorses, sharks, starfish and other creatures dance in a display of mystery and color.

Ingenuity teacher Stephanie Hall said the fusion of biology and earth science gave students a fun way to learn new material, but also opened their minds to the possibilities their future holds.

“It’s opening their eyes to careers and new jobs they might have that they haven’t been able to learn about before. They did really well, and I know they really enjoyed it.”

It’s an experience that Ingenuity Charter School aims to have for its students every day. A chance to interact with others, challenges themselves in a unique environment, learn through doing, and explore the possibilities of their future.

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