Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Living within our natural boundaries

"Do you think some of the water in the Everglades comes to Key West?" Kristine Brunsman asked the youngsters sitting around tables Saturday morning at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.

"Sure it does," she told the nearly two dozen children who raised their hands and nodding as if agreeing with her.

Brunsman, with the National Marine Sanctuary, was teaching the class -- there's one the third Saturday of every month -- at the center to get young kids interested in their environment. Saturday the topic was mangrove systems and the marine species that live within their boundaries. Next month is all about shipwrecks and lighthouses.

"We try and teach them on a natural, biological and cultural level in a way everyone can understand," she said. "We encourage them to go after class and use what they learn here."

Julie Way brought Ella, 2, and Jackson, 4, to learn more about the natural world they live in.

"We have a mangrove in front of our house," the Rockland Key mother said, as Ella bounced on her lap, and in her own artistic style, colored a picture of birds sitting in a tree.

"I have crabs, too," an enthusiastic Jackson added. "And I saw a swordfish."

Ann Ewing watched as her two sons, William, 6, and Sam, 9, read about estuaries and seagrasses.

"We went to an event last year and they gave us two mangrove trees and we planted them," the mother said. "And one is still growing."

After an oral lesson on how nature is connected in more ways than we know, the students were treated to a fun way of seeing those connections.

It started with the teacher saying her name and what her favorite things was.

"My favorite color is blue," she said. "Who likes blue?"

A boy raised his hand and she tossed him a skein of yarn, pulling a long strand from the ball so they stayed connected.

He said his favorite thing was Spiderman. Another child raised a hand and the yarn was tossed along.

The game continued until strands of yarn wove in and out of the group.

Then Brunsman reversed the process. "If one strand disappears, it affects the next person.

"They lose it too."

Before long, the web was unraveled and none of the kids were connected.

Still, the day wasn't just for the kids.

Ron Ramsingh admitted he enjoyed the classes as much as Julian, 5, and Emma, 8.

"I grew up here and there wasn't as much to do as a kid, so when I see a great program like this, I bring my children."

Emma Ramsingh studied the busy picture in front of her, and occasionally would raise her hand to answer a question.

"What are two types of water (in the Keys)?" Brunsman asked.

Emma knew the answer.

"Fresh and salt," she said.

"And if you mix it together, what do you get?"

This time, no hands jumped into the air.

After a little coaxing, Brunsman gave them the answer: "brackish water."

sfrederick@keysnews.com

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