Lately, readers of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's blog have been seeing lots of exciting news about opening exhibits, animal collections, the new volunteer enrichment series, and our newly revamped daily discoveries in the Natural History Exhibit. A special thanks to our Marine Education Assistant- Elise Gorchels and our Administrative Coordinator- Brian Kay for all the exciting updates.
Being the sentimental person that I am, I believe that some time to reflect on the last week at PTMSC is in line on the blog agenda. If you weren't able to stop by Fort Worden last week, you missed a large and unmistakable group of sixty 4th, 5th, and 6th graders parading around with enthusiastic smiles on their faces and sand in their rain boots! These students from around the state of Washington made the pilgrimage to Fort Worden and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for the 5-day annual Water World Program. Students from the Spokane, Yakima, Okanogan, Olympic Peninsula, and Puget Sound Regions spent their days and nights engaged in a learning experience that drew on the integration of the Arts and Sciences. With help from a team of PTMSC educators, Centrum staff, and residential artists these students left with a wealth of knowledge, new friends from around the state, and journal entries of tide pools, dance and movement performances, and self-created art that they will reflect on for decades to come.
To give you some more perspective on just how moving this week was for students, parents, chaperones, and staff alike- I’d love to share with you a personal story that I believe depicts exactly how unique this residential program is.
At the beginning of Water World, I met an adorable and energetic mother who was attending the program as a chaperone to her son. Upon meeting her, I immediately sensed her excitement to be in the marine environment for an entire week and to observe her son’s interactions with marine creatures, fellow students, and the beauty that is Puget Sound. (Side note: sometimes it is so refreshing to see another person interact with the environment you spend every day in. It offers a pleasant reminder of the simple yet inspiring beauties that every place has to offer.) On a less encouraging note, I also sensed some (expected) tension between the mother and her son. He started off his week with timid looks over his shoulder at his mother, a slow and shy raise of his hand to answer questions, and few social interactions with other students. The realization of this was evident in his mother’s demeanor and not easy for me to oversee. She seemed frustrated that her son wasn’t jumping right into the mix of things. Since I had made it my personal mission to engage and inspire each and every student at Water World, this situation did not sit with me well.
So what is one to do when you are trying to keep peace and order with 60 wild monkey-children throwing themselves at all the exploration and fun that the marine environment has to offer- and one student that clearly needs some extra encouragement? Well for me, the answer was simple. I used the artistic, scientific, and exploratory activities and opportunities at Water World to help him recognize his strengths and find confidence in the beauty of a question. By the third day of the program it became immediately obvious to me that this young boy was turning out to express himself as a truly brilliant, provoking, and engaged student. All he needed was a little inspiration (and maybe some fire under the butt!) In addition to the changes in his attitude, his mother was increasingly glowing with pride and love for her son’s newly founded confidence.
Now here comes the tear-jerker…
On Friday morning, the mother of this student approached me as all the kids, staff, and chaperones were saying their goodbyes. With the deepest gratitude and joy in her eyes, she sincerely thanked me for the past week and the attention I had given her son. She expressed that her week at Water World had changed her relationship with her son and had changed the light in which she saw him. She shared with me that she could now appreciate just how inquisitive he is and his love of nature and science. She told me that each night in the dorms he told her of how time after time he discovered new animals on the beach walks, wrote poems about the life of a decorator crab, and realized that marine invertebrates were much cooler pets than his dog at home (She cracked a smile at that point). I could not help but be tremendously thankful for the opportunity to be a positive presence in all these student’s lives, to inspire and coach this young boy to think like a scientist, and to change for the better a mother’s relationship with her son.
A special thank you to Water World and PTMSC for offering me the opportunity to spread such inspiration,
If you are interested in providing your child or students with the same inspiration and memorable experience, please visit the Port Townsend Marine Science Center website at www.ptmsc.org for information on the Water World program as well as next year’s program dates! Also check out our summer camps page on the PTMSC website for more information on other unique educational programs: http://www.ptmsc.org/summercamps.html