Next was a boat tour, where students dropped a large metal net to dredge the ocean floor, then pulled it up to explore the sea creatures they had caught. At the same time, they sank a microphone and listened to the different sounds they could hear at each depth. After a separate boat tour of a Cape salt marsh, campers received hermit crabs, which they named and then cheered on in a hermit crab race.
For tactile exploration of different kinds of seafloor sediment, local sculptor Joan Lederman provided samples from all around the world, including some from Antarctica, the Equator and the Indian Ocean. Students with some usable vision could also appreciate the difference in the color and appearance of the samples. And all the students were able to take some home as a souvenir of their trip.
At Nobska Lighthouse, Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel, Sandy and Don Abt, took students on a private hands-on tour, allowing them to explore the lighthouse, learn about its history and pass around a replica of the structure's 132-year-old Fresnel lens.
Of course, camp leaders left plenty of time for campers to enjoy what most of us go to Cape Cod to experience—the ocean! Camp director Lynn Shortis says, "Some kids who had never experienced the ocean before were able to go in the water and swim or play in the smaller waves." Those who did not want to swim spent their time the same way sighted children at the shore do: collecting seashells and making sandcastles.
The high point of the trip came at the end, with the visit to The Woods Hole Aquarium, where Aquarium employee Paul Bradley welcomed the Camp VISION students by bringing them behind the scenes for a special hands-on tour of sea creatures and fossilized shells. They also got to meet a blind seal named Bumper—and his trainer, Rachel Metz. During a demonstration in which she used sound sources to help the seal know where he was, and tactile prompts as signals for him to perform his tasks—and to help avoid startling him—Rachel was able to show the campers how, in working with a blind animal, Bumper's trainers incorporate some of the same methods the kids' teachers use with them!
Students also got special poolside seats for the seal show at the New England Aquarium. When trainers brought two seals up to the blind students for tactile exploration, Cordova, a small female seal, entertained the kids by trying to kiss them on the nose; while Beranov, a larger male seal—also blind—posed with the students for a hug, and even allowed one student to give him the command to wave and blow kisses.
"These were really wonderful people who really gave us a lot on this trip!" says Shortis appreciatively. She and the campers are back at school now—but already looking forward to next year's adventures, even as they recall the sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of this summer's brief vacation at the shore.
The students involved were:Pittsfield: Hunter Manzella, Cindy Bolte, Hope Daniels, and Keenan Provencher.Lenox: Matt Gilbert and Lee: Kara Curtin.Volunteers for this year were Aileen Archembault, Cody Scolforo and Ashley Stevens.