Academy's ambassadors enjoy environment summer camp

Sue Keller

Richard Murphy, director of education and science for Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society, returned to Marco Island to head the second Marco Island Academy Ambassadors of the Environment summer camp.

Murphy is a senior marine biologist for the Ocean Futures Society, where he has worked for more than 40 years. Murphy received a Ph.D. in marine ecology from the University of Southern California. He began working with Jean-Michel Cousteau and his father, Jacques Cousteau, in 1968. Since that time, he has been involved in a wide variety of projects and expeditions in remote areas around the globe.

Twelve academy students attended, with Melissa Scott, principal; Amber Prange, assistant principal, and Kelly Monnot, dean of students, accompanying the group each day.

Over five days, Murthy escorted the students on a kayak tour off the Isles of Capri to study the mangroves; took a dolphin boat tour to Keewayden Island to explore; went to Big Cypress National Park; visited the Otter Mound and Marco Island Historical Museum; explored Tigertail Beach, and built three native birdhouses and installed them on campus.

Students also learned how to design a sustainable community.

"It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I learned and gained as much from the students and Dr. Murphy as they did from me," said Scott.

"It's unfortunate that often amidst the daily hustle of life I forget that I live in paradise," said Prange. "It was such a welcomed breath of fresh air to spend time outside with the kids learning, exploring, and experiencing all of the gifts that our local ecosystem has to offer."

Brian Beckner, owner of Native Birdhouses, worked with the students on the birdhouses that he had precut for the kids to assemble and install.

"The lifelong memories and friendships made in just a week's time was the most beautiful part of this whole adventure," said Prange. "I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of this year's camp."

Generous academy supporters who donated scholarships and made the camp available for several students included:

• Platinum level sponsors: Peaches and Bruce Conley;

• Gold level: Rob and Donna Reiley;

• Silver level: Gene and Mary Sarazen Foundation;

• Student scholarship: King's Company.