Monday, July 4, 2016

Experiential Learning

From the oldest to the youngest they have all been through the ritual. Sitting on their haunches at the sweet spot, just where the wave breaks on the the shore, they wait. In it comes and out it goes, causing them to leap into action. Chubby preschool hands or slender competent teen fingers, they all know the routine. Take a scoop, not too much, of the newly soaked sand and deftly sift through until the feel of firmness meets your fingertips. Hold them tight and give a rinse to reveal the treasure of coquinas: tiny, delicate shells in an array of pastels from peach to violet. Then they release the treasure to the sand to watch intently as each shell swiftly upends itself while digging its way down into the soft wave washed sand. While toddlers, they call out excitedly for help as they watch the mollusks bury themselves, not quite able to make their fingers move with the deftness required to separate the creature from the sand. As they grow they collect them in buckets of water until some unspoken quota of colors is achieved before pouring them back into the waves to watch them return to safety.

Children at the seashore understand things tourists don't: stingrays require a bit of shuffling feet in the sand to scare them away, sharks teeth have a definite shape and hue when found among the grains of sand and crushed shells, and sand dollars are live animals that are best kept in the ocean. They are versed in the plethora of mammoth sized insects and lizards, both native and invasive that frequent the area around their homes. Many kids clamp anoles to their earlobes as makeshift earrings once they've reached a certain age, only to chase others around in a modern day native dance that plays itself out on the playgrounds across the state. Their knowledge can be impressive.

But there are definite holes.

It was muck out the guinea pig pen day, and I was outside helping Tween to shovel shavings from the playhouse they call home. While watching shavings fall from the heaping mound, I mentioned that this would be much easier with a snow shovel. Tween uttered a noncommittal sound and continued to hold the bag for a scoop or two. Then she paused, lowered the bag and in the searing 95 degree sunshine asked me, "What does a snow shovel look like?"

She can differentiate between a Florida and Cuban tree frog, knows when to reapply sunscreen and that a manatee is a safe swimming partner, but she has no frame of reference when discussing anything cold weather related.

It's a price we pay to live in paradise, but it might be good to take a trip north this winter...