Future Reflections Summer 2009
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by Kim Cunningham
From the Editor: As the kids are getting ready to start a new school year, it's fun to look back on the joys of summertime. In this article Texas POBC President Kim Cunningham describes an outing that was a great learning opportunity, and lots of fun as well.
You feel the warm sun shining on your face. You taste the salty ocean water as you swim with the waves. You feel your feet sink as you walk in the soft sand. You hear the familiar call of the seagulls as they look for a meal. All of your senses come alive at the ocean's shore.
Recently, a group of blind Texas children traveled to Galveston Island, Texas, to learn about our coastal shores. We were invited to attend a beachcombing class led by Ms. Kat Pollock, who worked with the Texas Parks Department prior to Hurricane Ike. The hurricane caused widespread devastation along Galveston's shore, including most of Galveston Island State Park where Ms. Pollock was previously employed. Ms. Pollock had taught beachcombing classes at the park, and now she was eager to offer her classes again. One day as she searched the Web she discovered the Texas Parents of Blind Children's Website. She contacted us and invited our children to attend one of her classes. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to learn.
With the help of a grant from the Imagination Fund, TPOBC hired a bus to take our families for a day of learning at the beach. We arrived early in the morning at the beautiful Palisades Palms Condominium Resort. The general manager of the resort offered his facility as a meeting place for our families. The lobby had a beach décor, including a large indoor waterfall which all of the children enjoyed. Outside the resort we found a swimming pool, a large deck area, and a long boardwalk leading out to the beach.
Ms. Pollock began the class by describing various kinds of plant life that could be found on the beach. She showed the children sea beans, coconuts, and seaweed, and explained how they played a role in the coastal ecosystem. Many of the children used their canes to sweep across the sandy beach, searching for various objects. The children also discovered the tiny ocean creatures that live within the plants. When they shook handfuls of the seaweed called sargassum, they found shrimp, crabs, and small fish.
The children were also given a chance to use a seine net. The seine net measures about three feet high by ten feet long, and has poles attached along the shorter edges. Working the net was a team effort, with one person holding a pole at either end. The team would walk through knee-deep water, allowing the net to scoop up the ocean life in its path. The contents were then emptied into a plastic tub, and everyone was allowed to feel the catch. The children found several species of fish, including a baby amberjack.
Ms. Pollock also had brought several skeletons of marine animals to show the children. The kids were amazed by the shark skeleton with its array of teeth.
At the end of the class the children learned to use a slurp gun, which resembles a syringe. It is about two and a half feet long with a two-inch opening. The kids placed the end of the gun near the water's edge, pulled back on the handle, and then pushed the contents into dry sand. Out came a bunch of small crabs that wasted no time in getting back to the ocean.After class all of the families gathered poolside for lunch and cooled off with a quick swim. Several of the kids traveled back to the beach for independent exploration and a nice, relaxing swim in the ocean. We all learned so much from Ms. Pollock, and we look forward to attending another beach event next year.
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