June 12, 2019

Youngsters learn to identify marine life during one of MarineLab's educational programs.

MarineLab Youngsters learn to identify marine life during one of MarineLab's educational programs.

KEY LARGO — MarineLab Environmental Education Center is providing the perfect way to pick life up by the exoskeleton, thorax or tentacle for an afternoon along the trenches of its neighboring lagoon, Jules’ Undersea Lodge Emerald Lagoon.

This is the first “Family Fun Day” the center is hosting, inviting the young and old to plunge into the world of marine science.

Snorkelers can explore Jules’ Undersea Lodge Emerald Lagoon during MarineLab’s family outing.

It will offer attendees an opportunity to gently tap an index finger at a sea urchin’s spine or find out if a sea anemone feels more like an eraser or a wet noodle.

“We’ll go out into the lagoon and look for some of its unique habitats,” said Rachel Carlson, MarineLab outreach coordinator. “We can look under rocks that have invertebrates like little crabs and little snails living in its algae.”

Sarah Egner, director of MarineLab, says the nonprofit education arm of Marine Resources Development Foundation has been hosting hands-on learning programs for more than 30 years.

“However, this is the first time that the organization has offered it in an introductory level and for free to local and visiting families,” Egner said. “It’s fun for everyone.”

MarineLab is offering an hour-long invertebrate diversity lab beginning at 2 p.m., “with a big show at the end.” Participants will visit the organization’s Undersea Lab Museum, which is now topside.

MarineLab’s Undersea Lab Museum is now topside at the organization’s Key Largo property.

“The museum is a one-room structure, but it’s really cool because you can see how people lived underwater in it,” Carlson said. “It was literally dredged up from the bottom of the lagoon.”

Visitors will be encouraged to get in the water and explore the Emerald Lagoon for the rest of the afternoon.

“We’ll have loosely structured snorkeling lessons available if needed while we introduce everyone to the lagoon,” Carlson said. “There will be lifeguards in place and there are steps for little kids to put their faces in the water.”

MarineLab will offer snorkeling gear. Scientists and snorkelers are asked to bring sunscreen, towels, a reusable water bottle and toddler life jackets if needed.

The MarineLab Environmental Education Center Family Fun Day begins at 1:30 p.m. with registration, a 2 p.m. lab and a 3 to 5 p.m. Emerald Lagoon Snorkel and Museum visit.

Registration is required as there is limited capacity.

For more information, visit marinelab.org or find them on Facebook under MarineLab Environmental Educational Center. To make reservations for upcoming events, call 305-451-1139, ext. 210, or email rachel.carlson@marinelab.org.

MarineLab is located behind The Hideout Restaurant and Jules’ Undersea Lodge at 51 Shoreland Drive in Key Largo.