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Young volunteer lends a helping hand to Shell Museum

By Staff | Aug 8, 2011

Shell Museum junior docent Charlie Reinhardt shows two young visitors a live tank inhabitant.

Charlie Reinhardt is a 13-year-old seventh grader at The Sanibel School, and since last summer, he has been a valuable junior docent at The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Diane Thomas, the museum’s public programs specialist, “discovered” Charlie while he was working at a horse conch display during the 2010 Shell Fair on Sanibel.

“I saw what a good communicator he was and how engaged he was and enthusiastic,” she said. “I figured that he would be just the person we could use for our live tank program.”

As a Sanibel School student, Charlie is required to perform volunteer work for his community service requirement, so as a shell lover, he chose the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to fulfill those hours – and then some.

After several training sessions and tutorials, Charlie was ready to pitch in with any task that came his way. Several days a week this summer he assisted youth campers with projects, led live tank presentations for museum guests, and worked with young visitors on their shell sketches.

“Charlie is a delightful young man,” Thomas said. “He is very responsive and willing to help, no matter what you ask of him. It’s a pleasure to work with him.”

Fortunately, Charlie isn’t shy when it comes to his job.

“I wouldn’t mind to stand in front of a million people and tell them about shells,” he said.

Charlie speaks and understands some German, so he is able to communicate with those visitors who appreciate the translation. Considering that he plans to be a world traveler, Charlie enjoys his encounters with guests from different countries.

“It’s cool,” he said. “I find it really interesting.”

When he’s not busy with school, Charlie enjoys shelling, fishing, making shell crafts and jewelry, and learning to fly an airplane. He also is interested in running an Internet-based business in which he buys and sells, among other things, baseball cards and remote control cars, planes and boats.

But for now, the future pilot plans to keep helping others at the Shell Museum.

“It’s just meeting different people and having fun while you’re teaching them,” he said about his docent duties.

Thomas would love to have more junior docents like Charlie walk through the door to volunteer.

“I think it’s important to have a strong junior docent group staff,” she said. “The hope is to have some kids that will really get involved with it and show up and be there and be the teacher for their peers and the other adult visitors, and also learn a lot about mollusks.”

If you would like to become a Shell Museum junior docent (ages 11-13), contact Diane Thomas at 395-2233, or via e-mail at dothomas@shellmuseum.org.