MARATHON, Florida Keys — For children age 8 and older, the popular Marine Science Camps held on the tiny island of Pigeon Key, one of the most unusual historic sites in the Florida Keys, make for an exciting summer of learning.
Camp sessions are set for Monday through Friday, July 1-5, 8-12, 15-19 and Aug. 5-9, with a choice of day camp or, for kids 10 and older, overnight camp. Early registration is suggested, as space is limited and slots fill quickly.
Pigeon Key Marine Science Camp includes daily workshops that feature topics such as marine mammals, reef fish, coral reef systems and invertebrates as well as hard and soft corals found in Florida and Caribbean waters.
Specimens are gathered in the tidal waters that surround Pigeon Key and contained in touch tanks for students to view. An educational team member is available to monitor and explain their role in the ecosystem.
The fun is as extensive as the marine education. Underwater obstacle courses, fishing, snorkeling, campfires and day excursions are all part of the camp sessions.
More than 30,000 participants from more than 1,000 schools throughout the continental United States, Alaska and as far away as China have traveled to participate in the private, customized educational programs.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Pigeon Key is located beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 47 bayside. In the early 1900s, the five-acre island was a camp for laborers constructing the Over-Sea Railway that connected the Florida Keys with the mainland in January 1912.
Today it features quaint restored cottages and a museum that showcases the railroad’s fascinating history.
Day camp includes daily ferry trips to the island, water bottles, lunch, snacks, marine program workbooks, snorkel gear rental and a trip to Sombrero Reef aboard a 40-foot catamaran. Cost is $350 per child.
Overnight camp includes the aforementioned as well as breakfast, dinner, staffed overnight housing on the island and additional marine science programs. Cost is $950 per child.
Participants at least 10 years of age also can opt to get their scuba certifications during a camp session or take a refresher course if already certified. The cost is $550 per child for day camp with a PADI refresher course, $800 for day camp with a PADI scuba certification class or $1,400 for overnight camp including a scuba certification class.