Literacy took a “Deep Dive Into the Lagoon” last Saturday at the Indian River County Main Library. More than 150 children and their families were immersed in the lagoon during the collaborative Moonshot community event hosted by The Learning Alliance (TLA), S.E.A. A Difference, and the Indian River County (IRC) Library System.
Activities were based on the children’s book “Mermaid Meg and the Magic Lagoon” by Brevard County author Leslie Maloney.
The organizations that participated are helping students to “get their hands dirty, get their hands wet and learn about the creatures that are being impacted by the deterioration of the lagoon,” according to Debbi Arseneaux, TLA educational consultant and teaching artist. “That tracks back into reading, back into learning, so they want to know more.”
“Each page references a different concern facing the lagoon as well as a solution,” explained Missy Weiss, S.E.A. A Difference, Inc. executive director. “Every organization has taken that to heart, and they’re providing a hands-on, in some cases, hands-wet opportunity for the students to learn more about that problem by reading about it on that page but then by acting, doing a craft project or an eco-art project.”
TLA's Moonshot Reading Rocket Bus set up shop outside, attracting junior environmentalists with a collage with paint where attendees painted on small canvases and then added beautiful shells to add another dimension to their artwork.
Inside the library, the East Coast Florida Mermaid became Mermaid Meg and chatted with the children from her shell throne and posed for photos after sharing her story with the children. Mayor Val Zudans appeared as a guest reader. The book’s author was also on hand and engaged children in a discussion about what they could do to help the lagoon.
Local artist Pam Hund created a community mural based on artwork from children attending Moonshot Academy. Sommers collected images based on the children’s responses to the story using colors and symbols to decode the text. Attendees picked up a brush and added a bit of color to the mural as they passed through the library.
“There are so many issues that impact the lagoon,” said Weiss. “Knowing that it’s going to take a community to fix those problems, we need a group of individuals who are learning to read about the problems that are affecting the lagoon and how they can help solve them. It’s a really important component of combining the issues of the lagoon and literacy as a whole.”
Hands-on activities enabled the children to immerse themselves in the lagoon as they tested water filtration with the STEAM Dreamers, learned about and looked at oysters from S.E.A. A Difference, discovered bioluminescence with the crew from Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), and tested water-runoff theories on a model.
They picked up recycling tips from Keep Indian River Beautiful (KIRB), and the IRC Solid Waste Disposal quizzed them on recycling with a game. The Environmental Learning Center explored animal adaptations; and, at the Wesley’s Island Eco Camp table the children made jellyfish and sea urchins using recyclable materials.
“It really does take all of us coming together, and so that’s why you have The Learning Alliance, a literacy organization, and S.E.A. A Difference, an environmental stewardship organization, coming together to bring everybody in our Moonshot Community into the conversation,” said Arseneaux.
Joana Hernandez said her son was fascinated by the IRC Stormwater model demonstrating how chemicals and the nutrients in dog feces end up in the lagoon. He learned that stormwater runoff ends up in the lagoon.
“We were both amazed to find out that 83 tons of dog poop is washed into the lagoon every day along the 156 miles of the lagoon. This was a great way for my son to learn about the environment, and now he wants to read all about the lagoon,” shared Hernandez.
Students from Vero Beach Elementary School displayed environmentally themed project-based learning boards they created and explained what they learned about the environment through the process.
“The IRC Library System is so pleased to be a part of the ‘Deep Dive Into the Lagoon through Literacy’ event,” said Patti Fuchs, IRC children’s librarian. “As a library, promoting literacy is obviously a huge part of our mission; however, fostering pride and togetherness within our community are as well.
Today’s libraries, particularly those in Indian River County, serve as centers of our community, providing various resources for both professional and personal development for all ages. This event was a wonderful example of several different agencies from throughout our community coming together through the library to promote both literacy and the protection of the Indian River Lagoon,” continued Fuchs.
The children left the library with visions of flippered tails, armed with a better understanding of the importance of the Indian River Lagoon and how they can make a difference by being good stewards of our “magic lagoon.”