Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, Shorelines staff writer
Most high school teachers use the same tools of the trade: books, pencils, paper, chalkboard. Teacher Steve Muskett uses those too, in addition to small boats, scuba tanks and global positioning systems.
Muskett has begun a new program this year at Nease High School called the Marine Archaeology Research Center, which offers students the opportunity to research marine life and underwater shipwrecks in a hands-on environment.
Students in the program take several classes, including marine science honors, marine archaeology research, Florida history and anthropology. They'll be learning to scuba dive so they can learn in a marine environment. Several field trips to Florida springs and the Florida Keys are planned.
"It's learning through discovery -- that's the key," said Muskett. "And another neat thing about this program is that it integrates science, math and history. It's holistic."
This week, students in his marine archaeology honors class were learning boating skills, a prerequisite to earning a boating license, which they'll need to go on underwater dives. Muskett handed out boating charts and talked about the difference between a chart and a map.
On a boating chart of south Florida, Muskett pointed out that all the little numbers are depths. He reviewed the terms fathoms, latitude, longitude and knots. Some of his students knew what the terms meant already; for others, they were new concepts. Some of his students already know how to dive, and some have never done it before but are eager to start.
Senior Brett Sanders said he has been taking classes with Muskett for three years. Muskett also teaches wood shop at the school.
"I'm really excited," said Brett, who has never been diving. "I can't wait 'til we get in the water."
He'll be getting in the water soon. After getting his boating license, Brett and his classmates will be learning CPR and first aid, and then begin learning scuba skills at a pool in St. Augustine that caters to diving classes. After four pool sessions and an exam, the students will have open-water scuba certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Then they'll be ready to dive in springs and go along on dives to historical shipwrecks in the area.
The MARC program evolved from former programs at Nease that combined archaeology and engineering as well as environmental legal studies. When teachers from those programs left Nease, Muskett approached Principal Bob Schiavone with the idea for …