Marine Biology Camp for Homeschoolers

Marine Biology Camp for Homeschoolers

Homeschooling High Schoolers & Families!

Led by Marji McIlvaine, marine biology instructor for 12 years, homeschool mom of six graduates, conference speaker

Science Lab instructors: marine biology and biology graduates, staff of NHMI

April 2-5, with added day possible

Florida Keys

Newfound Harbor Marine Science Institute (NHMI), Seacamp on Big Pine Key in the heart of the Keys.

High School Track:

High school students, even 13-year-old high school students, may come solo

Middle School & Family Track:

Ages 13 and below accompanied by a parent/guardian

NOTICE: Students under fourth grade at the time of camp cannot participate in the water activities, even with a parent. This is a safety and insurance issue. (We tried to work around this, but it isn’t possible.)

Explorations and Hands-on Lab Experiences in a rich and diverse ocean environment – living coral, seagrasses, plankton studies, sharks, octopuses … and many more!

The following labs and activities are planned – weather and sea conditions dependent, of course.

nocturnalNocturnal Adaptations of Marine Organisms: Through a variety of activities students will discover that the nocturnal marine world is abundant with life and activity. Topics include: comparing and contrasting marine lifestyles, adaptations of marine organisms, predator/prey relationships, vertical migration of plankton, ecological importance of plankton.

Snorkel Workshop (there is an extra charge of $15 to rent snorkel, mask and fins. You may bring your own of course.)

squidSquid Anatomy: This dissection lab is one of the most popular marine investigations. Students will compare squid anatomy with other cephalopods and discuss broader issues such as phyla classification with emphasis on mollusks.

coralNear-Shore Coral Reef Exploration & Ecology: High school students may take a snorkeling trip to Looe Key, a coral reef off shore. Younger students will observe non-reef- building corals by snorkeling and/or wading.

planktonPlankton Ecology Lab: Students will collect their own samples using a plankton net, and then we study the ecology and identification of plankton using live specimens and microscopes. Topics include: marine lifestyles, primary producers, trophic levels and food webs, and energy transfer through an ecosystem.

echinodermEchinoderm Lab: An animal behavior lab in which students collect invertebrates and design experiments to monitor their various behaviors including defense, feeding, reproduction and competition. This lab uses a variety of stations using microscopes and fact/question cards. Living and preserved specimens of sea stars, brittle stars, sea biscuits, sea urchins and sea cucumbers will be utilized. Echinoderm behavior, symbiotic relationships and ecology will be discussed.

seagrassSeagrass Ecology: Students snorkel over seagrass beds to observe the animals that live on and among the seagrass blades. Topics include: physical factors that affect shallow bodies of water, ID of seagrasses and associated organisms, structure of seagrass communities, interactions between biotic and abiotic components of ecosystem, and connectivity to mangrove and coral ecosystems.

Seagrass Transect: High school only. We utilize research equipment and the scientific method after studying seagrasses – students make a hypothesis about the circular nature of seagrass beds. They then conduct a transect across a seagrass bed with their marine science instructor, recording data on water and sediment depth. Back in the lab, students analyze their results, graph their topographical profile and make a cross-section of the seagrass bed.

sharkShark Biology: This program serves to teach students the true ecology of sharks instead of the myths and sensationalizing in the media. Topics include: external anatomy of sharks, fact vs myth discussion, hands-on activities to learn about shark diversity, and a snorkel excursion to observe sharks in the holding pond. A memorable experience!

fishFish Anatomy: External and internal anatomy of bony fishes – may include fish printing, fish dissections, comparison between bony and cartilaginous fishes.

Devotions each day, campfire one evening with singing, marshmallows, and stories.

ADD-ON DAY: (additional cost) (Wednesday, leaving Thurs a.m.)

kayaksCoastal Ecology with kayaks and Horseshoe Island: Taking kayaks to explore the marine environment – could be mangroves, sponges, corals, tidal zones, ornithology, or other organisms. Exact area of exploration depends on tidal and weather conditions that morning.

ecologyNearshore ecology (corals, sponges, patch reefs possible): Loggerhead, vase and stinker sponges are just a few found in the shallow waters around Big Pine Key. Students snorkel to observe the flora and fauna associated with the sponges, and they explore and discuss sponge morphology and identification.

algaeAlgae Lab: After a discussion of algae and their importance as habitats, students search for animals living within samples of calcareous algae. This is an excellent review or introduction to the invertebrate phyla. A favorite lab of many students and teachers.

octopusNight Wade: At night, the shorelines of NHMI are perfect for observing nocturnal habits of marine creatures. Students wade in ankle-deep water, using flashlights to illuminate their search for animals such as crabs, anemones, worms, mollusks with external shells — and even octopuses!

Campfire: singing, marshmallows, stories, devotions

General Information:

Boys and Girls are housed in different dormitories, NHMI staff are supervisors in the dormitories. Parents attending can act as chaperones as well. All staff are thoroughly vetted, background checked, etc.

The science instructors are all recent graduates in Marine Science, Biology or related fields. Staff are certified in American Red Cross Waterfront Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR and Oxygen Administration.

Academic Credit:

The camp itself, for lab hours and content, could be worth 1/3 high school lab credit.

The credit could be 1/2 high school credit if the parent required the student to write an essay/paper/report on the camp.

Could be listed as “Intensive Marine Biology Lab” OR “Extended Marine Bio Lab Practicum”.


NHMI and Seacamp are not faith-based organizations, but they are stellar, tested by time and many families and above reproach. The experience is extraordinary and all the staff deserve our admiration and respect. All truth is God’s truth, and we bring our faith to the camp and science just as we do in all of life. We will be in a place where we can see the incredible design surrounding us and see the handiwork of God. We will have devotions and your group supervisor, Mrs McIlvaine, is a Christ follower and will be leading the devotions. It is not required that a student be a Believer to join the camp. The staff at NHMI are wonderful, respected, passionate about their work, and may indeed be Believers.

Costs and Deadlines:

Deposit: non-refundable, $125 per person, due during registration

Middle school and below must be accompanied by a parent or guardian as a paying participant.

Parents are responsible to get their students to the camp (i.e., no travel included in the cost).


4 days / 3 nights (Sun evening thru Wed morning): $1095/person (plus $15 each if you want to rent mask, fins, snorkel)

Cost with added day:

(Sun evening through Thurs morning): $1480/person (plus snorkel, mask & fins rental if desired)

The added day is going to be wonderful – not to be missed!

Includes all meals Monday morning through Wednesday or Thursday morning, depending on the session you choose. Participants will arrive on Sunday, April 2 after having eaten dinner.

Come to the camp, and either return home in time for Good Friday and Easter, or plan to spend your Easter Break in FL with your family!

Deadline for Final Full Payment: February 28, 2023!

Participants are responsible for travel to and from the NHMI/Seacamp location.

For more information, please contact me.

Marine Biology Camp Registration Form

Marine Biology Camp Registration Form

Session Choice
Student's Educational Level:

*Students below the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent participant. (For questions or exceptions, e.g. a 13 year old who is in high school, please contact me.)

Fill out and submit the registration form once for each parent and student.

Check this email daily – important information will come through email.
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