June 3 Professionally Guided Cruises Help Public Better Appreciate Gulf Resources

May 31, 2006

MATAGORDA – On Saturday, June 3, Texas A&M University’s Floating Classroom Program (FCP) will host two public nature discovery cruises of the inshore coastal waters of the East Matagorda Bay area aboard the R/V Karma, its 57-foot teaching and research vessel.

The Karma will depart from its berth near the roadway entrance to Matagorda Harbor at 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. for two and a half hour trips to collect and examine biological specimens and inspect the diverse habitats of marine plants and animals under the tutelage of marine science professionals and naturalists.

Space is limited on these university-sponsored trips and there is a cost recovery fee of $12.50 per person for those 14 to 57 years of age and $8.50 per person for those 5 to 13 or 58 and older. It is recommended that guests wear hats, non-skid footwear (no flip-flops, please) and sunscreen (SPF of 30 or greater is best). Iced water, a climate-controlled cabin and a small functional toilet are available on board the boat. According to program director Willie Younger, “Unless someone is extremely prone to motion sickness, it is highly unlikely that sea sickness medications would be required. The Karma’s route is through waters that are very smooth 98 percent of the time.”

The Floating Classroom Program has scheduled public cruises every first Saturday of the month for the past three years as a public outreach extension of its coastal studies program designed for Texas students and their teachers. Unless a particular date falls on a university-approved holiday or within a holiday weekend, the public cruises are a routine part of the FCP’s portfolio of marine education activities. 

The Floating Classroom Program is a joint outreach initiative of Texas A&M University’s Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Sea Grant College Program. Its primary audience is youth organizations and student groups of up to 54 persons. Participants can come from public or private schools, home school groups or youth organizations (i.e., scouts, 4-H, churches, etc.) and can make reservations on a year-round, Monday through Saturday basis. Eligible youth/student groups may apply for scholarships that may cover up to 30 percent of their participation fee, as based (in priority order) on the availability of privately donated and/or grant funds, the specific time period in which the program is booked, and need. In addition to 4th-12th grade students and teachers, the FCP has also hosted leaders from community, business, government, higher education and agriculture groups to enhance their understanding and appreciation for both the living and non-living resources found along the Gulf Coast, as well as the complex and often critical issues surrounding their use, preservation or conservation. In its nearly five years of operation, the Floating Classroom Program has served nearly 13,000 Texans.

To make a reservation for one of the two open enrollment cruises held each first Saturday of the month, or to learn more about the day-long field education program for structured groups of young Texans, call 979/863-2940 or email floatingclassroom.tamu.edu. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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The Marine Advisory Service is a joint education program of the Texas Sea Grant College Program and Texas Cooperative Extension, both integral outreach components of the Texas A&M University System. This coastal field education program is made possible by the generous support of the Port of Bay City Authority and the Matagorda County Commissioners Court, which jointly serve as local sponsors for the state headquarters of the TAMU Floating Classroom Program. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.