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Florida author shares watershed tales with Sanibel School fifth grade classes

By Staff | Oct 6, 2010

During last Friday's lecture, students from The Sanibel School received an educational but entertaining lesson about the Charlotte Harbor watershed area.

Last Friday morning, Carol Mahler delivered a special program for two fifth grade classes from The Sanibel School at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, providing an educational but entertaining lesson about the Charlotte Harbor watershed area.

Mahler, author of “Adventures in the Charlotte Harbor Watershed: A Story of Four Animals and Their Neighbors,” published in collaboration with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, spoke for almost an hour at the museum’s reader’s theater.

Students followed the lives of the four charming animal characters; a yellow-crowned night heron, otter, baby alligator and a mullet as they frolicked in their beloved habitat. Mahler’s lecture kept both Mary Beth Clauss and Amy Holik’s classes spellbound.

“I think they’re really listening… and learning,” said Diane Orvis Thomas, the museum’s public program specialist. “We are very happy she came here today.”

Each student received an autographed copy of Mahler’s book and participated in the reader’s theater using their newly-acquired books, provided courtesy of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. They also received a mini-ecology and environmental awareness lesson as they learned about the man-made dangers the animals faced from disintegrating Styrofoam cups which entered the food chain, as well as plastic bag and propeller entanglements.

“They were an incredible group of youngsters,” said Mahler, who lives in Nocatee, Fla. “I’ve read my books to many, many classes, and this was one of the best groups I’ve ever spoken to.”

A professional storyteller, singer-songwriter and poet, Mahler has served a a humanities scholar and project director for programs focusing on Florida literature, history and public policy. She also served as “state scholar for a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit which toured Florida in 2001.

In addition, she is the founding director of the Peace River Center for Writers, now at Edison State College, in Punta Gorda, Fla.

The students enjoyed Rachel Rebekah Renne’s (the author’s daughter) illustrations as they scanned them to find all the hidden plants, insects and snails that are a part of the river and estuary habitats.

“The kids from The Sanibel School sat for almost an hour, and they were very attentive from start to finish,” added Mahler. “They answered all of my questions at the end, and they had a few questions of their own. It was just a wonderful experience.

This field trip and author visit was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club.

Shell Museum to debut Lunch & Learn Program

Whether you are new to the hobby of shell collection or you are an “old-timer,” there is something for every skill level at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum’s newly-launched Lunch & Learn Program.

Local shell experts and artists will share their enthusiasm, knowledge, and expertise during these one-hour sessions. All programs will be held in the Shell Museum’s auditorium from noon until 1 p.m.

The first program, “Shelling In Abaco, Bahamas,” will be held on Friday, Oct. 8. Mary Jo and Rodger Bunnell will present a program based on their twenty-five years of shelling experience in Abaco, Bahamas. An overview of the location and the main areas of interest for shellers, snorkelers, and divers will be discussed. A PowerPoint presentation will highlight many of the shells, coral reef fish and other fauna found in the Sea of Abaco.

On Nov. 12, Joyce Matthys will present a program entitled, “How Do Mollusks Munch Their Lunch?” Joyce is the museum volunteer who created the two mollusk videos that are shown daily at the Shell Museum. She has incredible patience as she waits to capture the movements of the shell makers. Many people are intrigued by the little animals called mollusks that create shells. Joyce’s program will give attendees a look at a specialized body part that no other animals on earth have except mollusks — a radula. When magnified, this eating tool takes on the appearance of a feathered work of art. Video footage of mollusks eating will demonstrate exactly how the radula works.

On Dec. 10, museum volunteer Sue Sprout will give participants a peak into the past, learning about Florida’s fabulous fossil shells and discovering what makes a shell a fossil and when and how these animals lived before the Florida peninsula was even formed. Attendees will also visit the Museum’s collection department to view fossil shells and learn how they are curated and preserved for study and enjoyment.

On Jan. 14, museum volunteer Smokey Payson will present, “Finding And Identifying Shells On Sanibel.” Smokey’s volunteer hours are spent in the museum’s collection department. During the winter months, Smokey’s days begin with early morning shelling trips to Lighthouse Beach. If the water temperature and clarity are ideal his collection efforts are enhanced by snorkeling. Smokey will share his collection and identification tips as well as the variety of species he has discovered in this one particular area on the island.

On Feb. 11, artist Jeanne Risher will present a program on the art form of fused glass. Jeanne’s creations are inspired by wildlife observed while snorkeling or diving. Underwater scenes progress through a multi-step process that begins with a drawing followed by a color design. Next, the glass is cut, a step impacted by ambient air temperature, the thickness, texture, and color of the glass, and the artist’s mood. Once the glass is cut and assembled, it is fired in a kiln at temperatures as high as 1600 degrees. She fires pieces in the kiln two to six times to achieve the desired effect. Jeanne will review the process of creating these one-of-a-kind creations, discuss the impact of her natural world observations, and display finished pieces.

For more details, visit www.shellmuseum.org.