A Shared Experience, 45 Years in the Making

Returning BIOS visitors

(From left) Carol Hartmann during her visiting study at BIOS (then the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (BBSR) in 1971; her son, Brenden Mailloux, who visited BIOS as an 8th grader in 1991 (shown here with his daughter India Ramos in 2007); India and Hartmann in July 2016, after India’s return from a week of study at BIOS.

In 1969, an educator near the town of Vernon, Connecticut began organizing one-week trips for local middle and high school students to visit BIOS, then the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (BBSR). The summer trips, known as the Vernon Bermuda Workshop, quickly gained a reputation among students as a magical chance to fly south, explore the island, take field trips into caves and to coral reefs, witness researchers in their laboratories and conduct small research projects on Bermuda wildlife.

This summer, a 14-year-old student became the third generation of one family to visit and participate in a week of ocean science studies at BIOS through the Vernon Bermuda Workshop. Below, this student’s grandmother, Carol Hartmann, writes about her family’s unique shared experience shortly after her granddaughter returned from BIOS this July.

From Carol Hartmann:

I was a freshman in high school in 1971 when I went to the BBSR as part of the Vernon Bermuda Workshop. My 8th grade science teacher, Duffy Brookes, told us about the trip and showed us pictures when I was in his class. I became fascinated and interested in going. I received a letter in the mail that said I was accepted. I was thrilled because the selection process was competitive.

I went the first week of two weeks offered. To this day I remember all that I did. I produced a written and oral report on a particular specimen, a chiton (mollusk). I had to observe it and then conduct research on it at BBSR with the materials they had there. I remember going to Nonsuch Island in a boat that carried us all, and feeling special that no one else could go there. I remember Mr. Brookes climbing up to see a bird nested on the side of a cliff; it might have been a cahow (an endangered seabird) and he was trying to get a glimpse of it. I loved the caves and seeing the stalactites and stalagmites. I loved collecting marine life and learning about what we gathered. I collected limpet shells and made a bracelet that I have today; this bracelet is now 45 years old.

When I returned home I wrote a letter to a friend in the group attending the program the week after us. I told her that some of my teachers were now giving me a hard time, saying I went on a “vacation.” That upset me and I expressed that in my letter. We were not on a vacation: we did work, studied, learned, and reported on our studies. Later, Mr. Brookes used my letter to show the local board of education the value of the trip.

Twenty years later, in 1991, I was so happy when my son, Brenden Mailloux, went on the Vernon Bermuda Workshop as an 8th grader. He had the same wonderful experiences as I did. In 2011, Brenden passed away at age 34. This summer, his daughter—my granddaughter, India Ramos—became the third generation from our family to go on the trip. When she told me she wanted to apply and was then accepted, I was thrilled. I knew it would be an experience of a lifetime, and indeed it was. I am happy that she now knows things that I could previously only tell her from my memory.

This trip to BIOS is an educational experience students cannot get in a classroom. The kids who go gain independence, responsibility, knowledge of marine life, and respect for the environment. They experience nature in a hands-on way. I am so proud and fortunate to have three generations in my family as part of the Vernon Bermuda Workshop at BIOS.

BIOS welcomes visiting groups of students and educators interested in learning about oceanography. For more information visit www.bios.edu/education/field-trips-and-lab-sessions.