Smiling at the Water
Our intern Zach Fasking finds it easy follow his mother's advice and enjoy the coast's natural wonders, like the pulsing surf at Atlantic Beach.
When I was a child, my mother would always say to me, “Zach, you can go enjoy what nature has to offer, or else you just signed yourself up for landscaping duty around the yard.”
Looking back, those were words of wisdom.
Obviously, I always chose to enjoy what nature had to offer. I can recall some of my fondest childhood memories fishing off our dock in Minnesota, listening to the loons and starring aimlessly into the water, my “home away from home.”
Zach Fasking, right, is teaching kids this summer about the N.C. coast, which apparently includes how to catch flounder. Now, he has to teach them how to catch legal flounder.
Life is truly a journey. I say this because now I am here in North Carolina, waking up and gazing out on the majestic Atlantic Ocean feeling nature’s blessing as I take a sip of my morning coffee. Driving across the immense Emerald Isle Bridge on my way to the office puts an uncontrollable smile on my face.
The N.C. coast is truly starting to feel more like home to me than Minnesota. Since I was ten, I have been a frequent visitor of Bogue Banks. We came every summer, and I quickly became addicted to the coastal environment. I knew I was an addict since I always got the feeling of helplessness and depression when I had to leave for the northland.
I try to impart some of that some of that wonder to kids each Mondays at educational programs at Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach. I help the kids learn about the coast and encourage them to get outside and learn in nature’s classroom. If I had to give one reason that children are getting outside less, compared to when I was young, I would say “Technological-Overload-Disorder.” I am not bashing technology. I think it is great that we have everything at the tap of a fingertip on our smartphones and touch-screen tablets, but what ever happened to just getting lost in nature’s beauty and forgetting about everything else?
I tell the kids about the variety of fish species that live near the beach. There is a fish tank located in front of the Fort Macon beach gazebo, where I am available to anyone who is interested in fish Q & A. I keep the lessons age-specific, simple, informal and interesting for the children. I also sometimes dive deep into various topics for adults, such as bioaccumulation and agricultural runoff.
After the fish talk, I guide an interpretive hike to all who are interested. On the hike we do some birding and talk about the ecology of barrier islands and sand dunes. We also talk about sea turtles and oysters. I also frequently discuss the effects that tides, waves and lunar phases have on inshore marine life.
When the interpretive hike ends, I set up a discovery table which has skulls, bones, sea shells and all sorts of cool stuff that kids can touch and observe. At the discovery table I teach participants about bottlenose dolphins, whales, seashells, sea-turtles and other marine animals.
Knowing that I am intern at an organization making improvements on coastal habitat gives me a great sense of pleasure. The people at the federation seem happy, they work hard and they always have smiles on their faces. I am feeling like a part of the best team a guy could ask for. As Aldous Huxley once said, “[h]appiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.” I think my other activity is interning here, and being a part of this great team.
-- Zach Fasking