CHS Students Voyaged to Andros Island Over Spring Break

Senior, Finn Jackson snorkling in the Andros Barrier Reef.

Science teacher Amy Gerber and eight CHS students voyaged to Andros Island, Bahamas March 30 through April 7. Mrs. Gerber hasn’t taken students to Andros in five years.

Gerber first traveled to Andros as a graduate student in college in 1989.

“I think this was my 19th trip to the island and I love it. It holds a special place in my heart,” Gerber said. “This year what prompted me was in AP Environmental Science we talked about the demise of coral reefs in the world. We watched a documentary called Casing Coral, and that just promoted me to say we need to see coral reefs I wanted students to have that experience.”

The Andros Barrier Reef is the third largest in the world behind The Belize Barrier Reef and The Great Barrier Reef.

“What makes it really unique and special is it’s probably the least impacted in terms of day-to-day human activity, because it’s a pretty remote place. It doesn’t get the volume of people that those other two reefs get from resort towns,” Gerber said.

Many experienced the coral reefs and other wonders the ocean holds for the first time over the trip. Beside spending time in the salty waves the students had land based days which were also an adventure.

“It was more cultural I suppose. For example one day we went to a place called Red Base which is the only settlement on the west side of the island. By our [America’s] standards it was a poor community. We would look at the way people would live there and think oh my God how do they do without. They have a well, they put a bucket into a whole and pull water up. There’s really limited running water, and limited running electricity in their homes,” said Gerber.

When the students weren’t immersed into the culture they went to the reef. They went to multiple reef sites, such as Toto which goes up to 6,000ft deep.

“While we were snorkeling we just tried to look at all the variety of different fish, corals, and invertebrates. We just tried to take in as much as we could. You know a highlight we saw a little Hox Bill Sea Turtle that was really nice. We saw sharks this time I think I personally saw five different sharks I probably saw more than most of the kids. It was just fantastic,” said Gerber.

While the students were impressed with the magnificent coral reefs, Gerber is more concerned. The reef starting to die is due to the death of a species of fish. This species was an algae greaser. Now the algae is out of control. 

“The reef looks mediocre. I’ve been going for thirty years now, and it doesn’t look anything like when I first went which is unfortunate. There are definitely places where the coral is dying and there’s algae taking over the entire environment, but then there were places where I thought the coral looked really healthy so that was promising. It gave me hope.”

Once the students returned, they have one final task to accomplish before the Andros experience is really over.  

“Coral reefs and culture are the two things I try to tie into these Andros trips. This year I really opened up our worked the kids have to do a project they are completing these projects now, but I opened it up to being art based, it could be a photo journal, in could be a historical project, and it could be about the science so that students can design a project that appeals to them,” Gerber said.

Gerber is planning to go to Andros again in the future. The next trip may be spring break of the upcoming school year.

“I want students to care about the nature aspects like the environment and the coral reefs that’s what prompted it, but I also want them to see what it’s like to go be in another culture that is so different than here and have those experiences. I think these trips build confidence for going out into the world and doing something great with your life,” said Gerber.