Wednesday, August 9, 2017

So Long Blacks Creek

As the poet Robert Frost once wrote, "So dawn goes to day, nothing gold can stay." This became very true, unfortunately, as we wrapped up our final day of programming for Summer 2017 at Black's Creek. Unsurprisingly, my staff, the kids, and I, were not ready to say goodbye, as we really have enjoyed our time there this summer, and getting to know one another. It's sad to think that we all will be going our separate ways, possibly to cross paths again, but who ever knows. Truly though, the most unfortunate loss was one pointed out by Ana, who said, "We never got to have our group lunch at Friendlys!" The Friendlys in question being one we drove by each day. However, one of the kids in the program told us that it is fairly slow, so maybe it was for the best.
At the end of each session I like to gather all the kids and ask them four questions about their experience that day. I'll either ask for a show of hands, or call on kids if it is a question that needs further elaboration. The questions are as follows: 1. Who had fun today? 2. Who caught an animal today? 3. Who did something today they've never done before? 4. Who learned something new today? For the last session with each group (we had four unique groups in total), I asked the kids to not only think about that particular day, but their summer as a whole. For this blog, I'd like to answer these questions myself.
1. Who had fun today?
Playing one of our favorite games, "School of Fish".
Unsurprisingly, everyone always raised their hand for this question, except for the occasional kid who may have been pinched by a crab that day(though it was rare!). It was never a dull moment at Blacks Creek, and I relished all the fun we had. We'd start off our day with laughs and smiles as we played warm up games(or sometimes simply attempted to teach a new game) and joked around. We had fun catching animals, giving them goofy names, searching for that elusive water bug, playing Gagaball, and so much more. Everyone was always smiling at Blacks Creek, both staff and kids alike, as we really did have fun together. I think the highlight for most kids would be catching crabs, but playing Gaga was a strong contender, especially if you ask Erik. Each day the kids would ask me if we could play, as if I would deny them the opportunity to play the game that should be America's pastime.
2. Who caught an animal today?
Just a small sampling of the many hermit crabs caught this summer.
Though we were not able to fish at Black's creek, there still was an abundance of other creatures to be caught, which the kids were always extremely excited for. We caught inumerable Green crabs and Hermit crabs, as well as the occasional Horseshoe Crab (which each session was lucky enough to witness!). There were shrimp and minnows, snails and clams. We got to look at birds that the kids were unfamiliar with, like egrets and cormorants. We even had a rat run through our circle one morning, much to the dismay of Nieomi. Every catch brought excitement to the kid that caught the animal, and they all loved the chance to catch a variety of animals. I loved watching the chaos that would erupt each time an animal was spotted, especially when it was a school of minnows and all the kids would go rushing for them. 
3. Who did something today they've never done before?
These kids had never held a horseshoe crab before!
Blacks Creek was a hotbed for unique experiences for these kids, even those who had attended last year. Myself and the rest of the Save the Harbor staff were new to the site this year, so every day brought with it something new that we had never experienced, starting with day one when we finally got a good look at the place. Normally, seeing a live horseshoe crab was the most common answer, but they could run the gamut from silly answers like, "I've never been to Blacks Creek Jail before", or, "I've never beat Jahari in a race before", to more serious answers like, "I've never caught a crab with my hands before", or, "I've never known what it means to molt before". There was such a mix of silly and serious, in a way that only childhood innocence could bring. These were the answers that always kept me on my toes, but reminded me of why we were there in the first place!
4. Who learned something today?
My friend Dennis and I attempting to do an
"extended dab".
When I asked this question, the kids would normally pause for a minute, as they had to rack their brains as to what they had learned in the day. But once they could think, and some times with a bit of prompting, they could recall a great deal of information. We learned about each other, what everyone liked and didn't like. We learned about green crabs and how to tell if they are a boy or a girl. We learned that crabs can regenerate limbs, and that hermit crabs will trade shells. We learned what it means when a crab molts, and one group got to experience it first hand. We learned that horseshoe crabs have ten eyes, and are essentially prehistoric. But most of all, we learned that Blacks Creek was the ultimate place to have fun and learn about the harbor this summer!

When I look back on my first summer at Blacks Creek, I know I will have a lot to remember. I think of the pair of brothers with true love for this place. How one was the king of catching crabs, and the other was king of unpredictability. I'll think of the sisters who were part of a team of "mascots", that attempted to raise morale with dancing and cheering. I'll think of when I assembled a team of Blacks Creek Police, who were there to keep the peace and report to me if they felt someone needed to find themselves in Blacks Creek Jail, which thankfully no one did. I'll think of the boy who asked to read my Aquatic Invertebrates Field Guide, and spent the morning doing research, and how he later would call and wave to me from the sailboat he was learning to sail in. I'll think of the girl who was able to tell everyone what an exoskeleton was, after only her first day of programming. I'll think of the boy whose mouth was always full of food or a sassy comment. I'll think of the boy who was intent on finding a water bug, only to be absent the one day we caught one. Most of all, I'll think of the numerous memories we made, too many for me to all share here. I'll think of the boy who told me that his favorite part of the day was when everyone else went up the hill to play games, and it was just the two of us searching for animals. I'll think of all this, and be glad.
Watching this horseshoe crab walk away, I like to think it's symbolic of the

Until next time, I'll be reflecting on my great experiences and of course feeling a bit of the Save the Harbor blue.

No comments: