Monday, September 14, 2015

Summer in the Bahamas Inspires Two JASON National Argonauts

Blondine Delva
Spring Branch ISD ninth-grader Blondine Delva and seventh-grade teacher Jessica Licarione returned from the Bahamas recently with stories and experiences they will never forget as the district’s latest JASON Learning “Argonauts.”

Spring Branch ISD’s latest two JASON National Argonauts had an unbelievable summer in the Bahamas. Out at sea, they even held in their hands a sea creature that had yet to be named, a newly discovered species.

Blondine Delva, a Spring Woods High School ninth-grader, and Jessica Licarione, a seventh-grade instructor at Spring Woods Middle School, researched invasive species of fish and collected data on lemon sharks surrounded by sky blue water and soft white island sands.

At the Cape Eleuthera Research Institute, the two joined a dozen other students and teachers at the end of July during a once-in-a-lifetime journey that blended science exploration with active learning and island fun during a five-day trip sponsored by Jason Learning.

Jessica Licarione with a lemon shark
In their blog, Jessica and Blondine wrote about an amazing adventure that included morning yoga on a deck overlooking the Caribbean Sea, snorkeling trips, fileting a variety of fresh ocean fish, and jumping off the island cliff into the so-called Ocean Hole, a popular swimming hole that is more than 500 meters deep.

“Every time I jumped,” wrote Blondine, “I got such an exhilarating feeling that I couldn’t settle down, even after I hit the water. One of the best feelings you can ever get is from being able to do something you would never be able to do on your own, and having someone support you every step of the way.”

Jessica and Blondine's blog -

Together, the SBISD pair had a weeklong adventure that began in late July with a two-day trip to Atlanta, Ga., where they toured the Georgia Aquarium and CNN’s original studios. At CNN, they were given a tour by a former Jason Argonaut. At the state aquarium, they took a behind-the-scenes tour and learned about research into whale sharks, which are found in the Philippines.

During their July 27 to August 1 trip to the Bahamas, they met scientists working on lemon shark research topics, and they stayed in dorms powered by the sun and wind. They helped collect data on invasive species like the lion fish, which is not native to the Bahamas. They also met Mackey, a researcher in her 20s who just discovered two new species of isopods, a sea crustacean with a rigid, segmented exoskeleton.

“We got to go out in the deep sea to gather research with her and actually hold newly discovered species. One of the new species, had not even been named yet!” Licarione said.

Among other new skills acquired, Blondine was rated tops in fish dissections and fileting among JASON Argonauts. The pair also hiked into the woods where they learned about Banyan trees, the vine-like tree that live for hundreds of years on some areas of the island.

“Each student was so engaged. Blondine was constantly doing hands-on activities, and she was always asking questions. She talked for over an hour about all of the things she learned when she got back home,” Licarione said.

“As a teacher, I really benefited from seeing how excited the students got about science and how much they learned by doing it themselves,” she also said.  

Blondine was selected earlier this year along with Ms. Licarione for the summer trip with JASON, which is supported by Chevron as a public-private partnership that collaborates on the need for higher-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education program for students.

“It was wonderful that both Blondine and Jessica were selected by JASON to participate in this rich, hands-on experience alongside world-class scientists,” said Ro Luecken, SBISD’s JASON grant coordinator.

“They return to us from their journey to serve as true ambassadors to the idea that STEM is both fun and exciting. Blondine and Jessica are real role models to other students and educators who aspire to be the Argonauts of the future,” she added.

Since 1990, more than 460 students and educators worldwide have been provided hands-on, scientific field training and research opportunities through the JASON National Argonaut Program. Many students have gone on to earn STEM degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In SBISD, National Argonaut students have included Allie Eggert of Memorial High, a senior; Fredy Corrales, a senior, and Chase Gonsoulin, a junior, both of whom attend Northbrook High; and Paloma June, who is a junior at Westchester Academy of International Studies.

About JASON Learning 
JASON Learning is an independent 501(c)(3) organization. Named for a mythological Greek explorer, JASON is a nationally acclaimed, exploration-based program that links students – inside the classroom and out – to real science and scientists through technology-intensive, inquiry-based curricular experiences.  To learn more, please visit


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