By June Mathews
About eight years ago, Dina Marble and her husband, Will, began noticing a disturbing trend among teens. As a licensed professional counselor and an experiential educator, respectively, both Marbles worked with students on a regular basis.
“Teenage anxiety and depression seemed to be up, and their resiliency and coping skills seemed to be down,” said Dina Marble. “They seemed less interested in connecting with people personally and more interested in connecting with them virtually.”
The ever-increasing use of technology, the couple felt, was largely to blame, and as the parents of three young daughters, they had personal cause for concern. A virtual existence was not what they wanted for their girls.
“We want to see them grow up knowing the magic of deep friendships, the connection of family and the understanding that there is a big, beautiful world out there to be explored and protected,” said Marble, who grew up in Vestavia Hills.
But instead of worry, the Marbles chose action in the form of Family Dive Club, their family-run business that offers scuba diving programs, camps and trips for kids, teens and families. On its surface, the business is a vehicle for teaching scuba diving and helping individuals learn about ocean conservation. But its true mission goes much deeper than that.
“Our vision for Family Dive Club was to create safe, fun, enriching and adventurous experiences that allow people to take a break from technology and connect with friends and family in meaningful ways,” Marble said. “We always say, ‘You can’t check your phones underwater,’ and that you have to be present and mindful of one another in order to be a good dive buddy.”
Some of the most popular opportunities offered by the Family Dive Club are organized trips to the Georgia Aquarium, where families spend the night inside the aquarium and enjoy encounters with dolphins, whale sharks and beluga whales. This summer, however, some Over the Mountain Family Dive Club participants will be traveling a little farther: to the Caribbean island of Roatan off the northern coast of Honduras.
While on the trip, kids ages 5-14 will participate in Dolphin Scuba Camp, where they will work with dolphin trainers each day. Parents will scuba dive, snorkel or sim- ply relax while their kids enjoy the opportunity of a lifetime.
Along for the journey will be Audra Kammerer and her 11-year-old daughter, Julia. This is a second mother/daughter Family Dive Club outing to Roatan for Kammerer, who went on last year’s trip with her older daughter, Lauren, age 14.
“It was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had,” she said. “It was wonderful one-on-one time with my daughter, where we experienced sharks, dolphins, seahorses and countless underwater plants and animals. Dina handled all the details and made the experience easy, fun and interesting for the young and older attendees. I hope to bring the whole family next year.”
Friends with Marble for decades, Kammerer has also been one of her students and became a certified scuba diver more than 20 years ago.
“When she told me she was offering a class for kids, I knew I wanted her to certify my kids also,” Kammerer said. “Dina is a great instructor, and she is very patient and conscientious in the water with her divers. She has a love for scuba diving and a respect for the ocean and its creatures, and I wanted my kids to see and adhere to her example.”
As far as the Marbles are concerned, making memories while strengthening connections in a learning environment is what Family Dive Club is all about.
“At the core of our mission is bringing people together for meaningful experiences; helping kids feel connected, supported, affirmed and celebrated; teaching kids important life skills such as organization, focus, self-confidence, good decision making and safety; and creating space for families and friends to come together to create memories that last a lifetime,” Marble said. “We know our children won’t be at home forever, but we believe families who play together, stay together.”
For more information, call (205) 249-2267, go to.familydiveclub.com or visit The Family Dive Club on Facebook. Though Teen Scuba Camp is full, space is still available in Kids Ocean Camp for ages 8-11 which will be held June 17-21 and June 24-28; and Magical Merfolk Adventure Camp for ages 6-7, which will be June 24-28.
Meet the Marbles
Dina Marble has been a Professional Association of Diving Instructors master scuba diver trainer since 1994 and has dived and taught scuba diving all over the world. She has been a licensed professional counselor since 2002 and has worked in a professional counseling setting with teens for more than 17 years.
Will Marble has been an experiential educator since 1985. He has practiced group facilitation for teens, college students and adults in locations ranging from remote wilderness settings to corporate board rooms. He is a trained accreditation reviewer for the Association for Experiential Education, has had medical training as an EMT and wilderness first responder, is an avid diver and loves to share his enthusiasm for the outdoors with others.