Last updated: April 14, 2015
Photo: NPS / Alana Stickney
Glancing out of the windows of the Ted Stevens International Airport, I could feel that I was a long way from Pennsylvania and that there was a wealth of inspiration and knowledge for me right outside that glass panel. The giant Brown Bear display that I stood next to as I waited for Ranger Fiona Ritter to meet me, added to this euphoric feeling of entering into a new and wild land, aptly called "The Last Frontier."
As an SCA intern, I expected to be caught in a whirlwind of activity as I became accustomed to my new home for the next few months. However, I never expected to be so awed at the multitude of incredible programs CJ Rea and her education staff coordinate throughout the schools of Southeast Alaska.
There is the Marine Science boat program where students hop on a 5 hour boat ride to learn about the ecological significance of the invertebrates, marine mammals, intertidal zones and Fjords. In the classrooms of Seward Elementary, students are able to express their knowledge of Resurrection Bay's rich and dynamic marine ecosystem through artistic interpretations of jelly fish, limpets, snails, octopi and crabs in as many brilliant colors and shapes as you can imagine. Later, their incredible creations are put on display at the Kenai Fjords National Park's Information Center as part of a program called Art for Parks. As I assisted in setting up the display, I felt the excitement of the upcoming First Friday where the students and their families would fill the room and 'ooo' and 'ahh' at how astoundingly creative young minds can be.
And that's just it. There are no 0 to 10 linear progressive measurements on the vast potential of a young mind. It's limitless. When provided with support and sufficient space for creative expression, children can utilize more thought and imagination from their education and experiences than we could ever conceive. After these past few weeks, I wish I could bottle up the magic of these educational programs and distribute these opportunities to every school in the nation so that they too may become so involved in the wonder of their local environments, gaining inspiration for creative thought and artistic expression.
It's not easy to explain to both children and adults alike what a marine ecosystem entails or how multifaceted an estuary is. Our Fjords Walk program began with 60 young minds excited and energetic. We had just a few hours to spare to educate them about the intricacies of Resurrection Bay. Yet by bringing students to this outdoor classroom and teaching them about estuaries and fjords, they develop a familiarity with the language of ecology. Then as they grow and begin to question more, they do it from a foundation. And that's the real lesson I'm beginning to learn as an SCA intern. I am learning that the education and interpretive staff and all the members of Kenai Fjords National Park, are all working together to build that foundation for our present world, for all citizens ages 1 to 100, and most importantly for our future generations. A whirlwind indeed has been my time here so far at Kenai Fjords National park but honestly from all the incredible experiences I have gained, I wouldn't have it any other way.