Trinh Keegan finished a school field trip this week with big ideas.
After seeing experts tend to wounded reptiles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, 16-year-old Keegan left inspired.
"I want to work there one day," she said.
About 50 10th- and 11th-graders from Ivy Academy, a Soddy-Daisy charter school, visited the Southeast Georgia coast this week to learn more about marine life. The trip was meant to tie in lessons from Ivy's environmentally focused instructional program.
"There's no better way to understand and appreciate the environment than to experience it," said Ivy environmental science teacher Jim Watson.
Sophomores explored the Cumberland Island National Seashore, while juniors spent their trip about 60 miles up the coast on Sapelo Island, visiting the University of Georgia Sea Turtle Center, among other sites.
Keegan said highlights of her trip included canoeing among alligators through the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and visiting the turtle center.
At the center, students saw sea turtles mauled by boat propellors, shark attacks and fishing hooks as well as those ailing from tumors and malnutrition.
On Cumberland Island, students completed a "beach breeze," cleaning up about a mile of coastline. In the washed-up trash, students found florescent light bulbs, gas tanks and fishing nets.
Students said the dirty beaches highlighted the need for more recycling and better protection of the environment.
"It makes a big difference if we all pitch in. We can all do something," said sophomore Josh Everett, 16. "It was interesting to see all this wildlife and how we impact it so much."
Watson said students such as Keegan, who left inspired to work with sea turtles, point to the importance of such hands-on experiences.
"She might do that one day," he said. "But how would she do that if she'd never been there?"