Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 7: Kids, kids, and more kids

Today was a great day a the turtle hospital. We had the wonderful opportunity to teach local elementary school children about the turtles and introduce them to all of the wonderful turtles we have been spending our week with.  I (Mitch) started at the turtle nesting station. Boots and I taught the children about the nests, the hatchlings, and the Topsail Turtle Project. After a short lunch break, I got to teach the students about October. October is the biggest turtle at the hospital. She had extensive surgery and is missing a portion of one flipper. The kids had great questions and some showed a lot of concern for October. Some of my favorite moments were when one student guessed October weighed 10 thousand million pounds, following by her classmate guessing she weighed 10 pounds. Also, one student told me she felt really bad for October and that truly warmed my heart. 

I (Jess) had the privilege and blessing and teaching the local elementary aged children about plastic pollution and how it affects sea turtles and the environment as a whole.  Finding ways to engage the children was a challenge, but it was very rewarding when I was able to see them get super interested and passionate about pollution! For example, below I am showing the kids how sea turtles could mistake a plastic bag as a jellyfish and eat it.  I was happy to hear that a lot of the kids already knew the importance of picking up trash and recycling, and happy to see them eager to learn even more.  They also had some very interesting questions that at one point had my laughing to the point of tears (Why are there coyotes in the ocean? Why is your name Zach? Why are you sad?) After lunch I went to sea turtle bay where I talked to the groups of children about River and Alpha and showed them the two gorgeous turtles swimming in their tanks.   A lot of the kids were already super passionate about sea turtles and could not get enough of seeing them in person, and interacting as the turtles came up for breath or seemed to wave at them.

We were able to speak to about 350 students and 100 parents and teachers from local elementary schools who sacrificed a school date to introduce their children to the nearby sea turtle hospital. We are enthused that we were able to reach out to such a large section of the local population, and we hope that we not only informed the children about sea turtles, but sparked a lifelong interest in environmental conservation. Jean was very impressed with our presentations, no small feat from a woman with high expectations who has seen it all. Getting her approval truly allowed us to feel that we had succeeded in our mission this week! After the presentations to the children, Jean spoke to us about the larger goals of our trip. She encouraged us to always be true to ourselves and follow our passions. Her wise words included telling us that she believes every species, and every member of our own species, deserves the utmost respect from everyone. Below we are pictured with the legend herself, Jean the turtle queen!

After our long day, we unwound by walking out on the large fishing pier that is just a few blocks from our house.  We watched surfers, fisherman, and just basically laughed about all the crazy things that kids sad all day! Then we got all fancied up and went out to a cute seafood restaurant right on a nearby sound.  We were all very adventurous, munching on wahoo, soft shell crab, fried oysters, shrimp, tuna, and SPINACH SALAD (we have a proud vegetarian among us). We then took a walk to see the sun set over a different part of the sound (pictured below).  It was very peaceful and serene, until we got there. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the night reflecting on our day and the experience as a whole.  I think we are all realizing that this is our last night in Topsail, and tomorrow we have to say our last good byes to the turtles, our amazing house, and the gorgeous weather here in North Carolina.  We all talked about how much we learned about ourselves, and how we hope to continue to be stewards to our earth even back in College Park.  All in all, we are so grateful for this experience and the knowledge and insight we have gained from it.

-Signing off, Mitch and Jess (nerdy boy and sad girl)

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