Varsity Basketball Trip to the Everglades
The Loyola Boys Varsity basketball team headed to sunny south Florida to play in the Saint Andrews Holiday Classic during the Christmas break. Head Coach Fred Agnostakis, accompanied by Head of Security Brendan Johnson, decided to have the team to take part in a global educational adventurous exploration of the Florida Everglades. Coach A. enlisted the aid Mrs. Stacy O’Connell, a science teacher at the Saint Andrews School of Boca Raton. She has an extensive background in the conservation of the Everglades. Mrs. O’Connell is also a veteran at leading student groups to explore the eco-system and natural wildlife of the Everglades. She combines lectures and slide shows with adventures out into Everglades with an ecosystem and a geography that is unique on Earth. She instructed the team on the ecosystem, sharing with our students the challenges faced by the various animal species – marine and other animal types - in trying to survive the vast climate changes taking place due to encroaching developers and climate change.
After the informative lecture the Knights hopped on an air boat and headed deep into the Everglades. In the distance a passing storm could be seen with its thick clouds and a sheets of pouring rains. Then Mrs. O’Connell told us, “…that rain will help put out the fires in the west.” We learned that the Everglades regenerates itself with tremendous fires caused by lighting and the tropical rains often douse the fires, a perfect blend of ecological timing. Off we went speeding through the thousands of lily pads and ending up alongside a mangrove island where the roots are embedded in the water. There is no soil on this kind of island. Birds of all kinds make their homes here. Multi-colored iridescent birds flocked to the boat to peck at the bread crumbs offered. The young tagged alongside their mothers learning as they went. A lily white parrot glides down near the boat landing on a nearby branch. Her beak, eyes, and claws were pitch black, in stark contrast to her pure white feathers. The parrot then proceeded to fly up to her nest above us. After exploring species of birds we were off to find alligators.
Heading west at rapid speed, the air boat made its way effortlessly through the lily pad fields and rippling waters, finding an island called a “teardrop” shape due to the way the current flowed south. Sure enough 20 to 30 alligators were sunning as we glided around the island. Alligators need to warm up since they are cold blooded. They appeared to all be asleep, much to our satisfaction. Although we did not see any Burmese pythons, Mrs. O’Connell assured us they were out there lying low. They are not an indigenous species, and this causes serious problems to the delicate balance of species in the Everglades. Their presence is threatening very existence of the ecosystem of the Everglades. There was a deep debate going on regarding this matter as we were there that day. As the day came to a close we were greatly educated about this fascinating place.