A Timeless Tale
Enter into the turtle yard on any given day and you will spot a group of school children huddled around a sea turtle tank, straining their necks to catch a glimpse of the turtle surfacing for air. Their eyes widen in amazement when they witness the turtle’s flipper stroke the brim of the tank and squeal in excitement because to them everything about these creatures is fascinating. To them, these creatures are ocean explorers who hold secrets from ancient worlds that they can only imagine.
The children lose their focus to the commotion stirring behind them where rehabilitation staff are draining a tank. The perimeter of the turtle yard fills with guests as their curiosity takes over. Volunteers explain to guests that the rehab staff will take the turtle into the hospital to conduct routine tests. In attempts to satiate the guests’ endless questions, a rehab staff member explains that every day turtle patients are taken into the hospital for routine tests, including blood work, vitamin injections, and treatments. Whispers from the children of wanting to work at the center fill the air as the rehab staff lift the turtle on the gurney and head for the hospital. Guests move like the rehab staff’s shadow rushing to press their faces against the hospital windows. No audible sounds can be heard from the children, overcome with wonder, as they observe their role models diligently at work. Not a single child will stray from the window until the tests are done for they would stay all day if time permitted.
Eventually, the children are herded back into the yard to finish exploring. One child, who stumbled upon the handful of hatchlings floating in a tank, beckons his classmates in a shriek of excitement. As the children marvel at the hatchlings they inquire about the life cycle of a sea turtle. Ceaseless questions fly at the volunteer: “How big will these hatchlings grow to be?”; “Is it a boy or a girl?”; “How do they find their way back into the ocean without a parent to guide them?” Identifying with the small reptile, the school children are puzzled – how does something so small take on something so big? The volunteer reassures them that LMC’s research team patrols the beaches morning and night in attempt to create a safer environment for hatching sea turtles.
A child’s inquisitiveness, timeless in nature, propels marine life conservation. With an ability to be mesmerized by a turtle’s exhale and eagerness to learn, children – as Eleanor Fletcher believed – are the best hope for the longevity of sea turtles. Since Eleanor Fletcher founded the Children’s Museum of Juno Beach in 1983, a lot about the center has changed, but educating children will always be a part of our core. In over 30 years LMC’s narrative has primarily remained unchanged because sea turtles are synonymous with Juno Beach, Florida. Located on a barrier island, with waters rich in marine life, LMC transcends time. As long as we protect our oceans, LMC will continue to be at the forefront of sea turtle education, rehabilitation, and research for many years to come.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center Then and Now:
[Left Photo Credit: Thomas Dickinson)