What do volleyball on the beach, sunset picnics at the ocean, boating trips on Monterey Bay, and school have in common? A lot, if you are lucky enough to spend one month of your summer at the Santa Catalina School Summer Marine Biology Program. I applied to the program the summer after my sophomore year, thinking it would be just another summer camp experience. I was wrong. I learned about marine biology thirty-three hours a week through labs, lectures, and field trips. Half of almost every day's work involved a trip to one of the many exciting sites around Monterey, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the diverse beaches, and the Hopkins Marine Station run by Stanford University. The second half of each day was spent in lecture and lab sections, taught by experienced and knowledgeable teachers from Santa Catalina and other Monterey Peninsula schools.
When classes were done, there was still a lot of time to explore the Monterey Peninsula for myself. The School offered many field trips to the beaches and mountains for hiking, picnics, and games. Often the teachers and advisors would join the thirty students for volleyball, soccer, hiking, or singing folk-songs around a camp-fire. The School also provided a shuttle on weekends to shopping areas, local beaches, and movie theaters. There was always a wealth of activities from which to choose.
Not only was my experience at Santa Catalina exciting and rewarding academically, I met twenty-nine interesting people from around the country. Because we had a shared interest in science, it was easy to get to know people and form deep friendships. The majority of the participants in the program boarded at the school, but there were day students from the Monterey area as well. Santa Catalina School is a boarding school during the school year, so participants lived in clean, well-kept dorms. The food was the best food from a cafeteria I have ever eaten (far better than the food at any of the colleges I have toured). The Marine Biology Program has been running for many years, so the staff is experienced in creating an interesting and challenging session for the students.
I thought summer school would be a bit of a bore. But at Santa Catalina, I was exposed to one of the most beautiful sections of the California coast, I learned a lot about science that could never be covered during a regular school year, and I formed lasting friendships with both the students and the staff. I learned a lot about dorm life, and what it would feel like to attend college and be away from home. I highly recommend the program for anyone interested in the sciences as a career, because it provides a working knowledge of laboratory and research techniques that can be used for the rest of my life. And the program is incredibly fun. And that, in the end, is what summer is for. n
The Santa Catalina School Summer Marine Biology Program is open to students entering the tenth through twelfth grades. For more information, write to the Santa Catalina School Summer Marine Biology Program,
1500 Mark Thomas Drive, Monterey, CA, 93940.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.