In an era of increasing "screen time," it's wonderful to know that older students in both the Deaf and the Blind Departments at FSDB have the opportunity to join school clubs that get them outside regularly, thanks to longtime Blind Middle School (BMS) Teacher Edith "DD" Stein and newly-minted Deaf High School (DHS) Teacher Brandon Call!
Brandon Call, a Science teacher, describes himself as "having a passion for nature and the great outdoors." His stated goal: Help students learn how to appreciate the outdoors. He recruits new students each semester for the club, which meets once a week after school. This year they have gone on several field trips to local venues including the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and the GTMNERR (known in short as the Guana Research Reserve). They spent many pleasurable hours kayaking off the school's dock in the salt marshes.
The back part of the FSDB campus is surrounded by wetlands and have been known to host dolphins and the occasional manatee! Not alligators as they prefer freshwater environments.
Asked to relate an anecdote from this 2018-2019 school year, Call detailed a humorous incident: "One of my students had never eaten or even seen a s'more before and asked why were cooking redneck food over the fire. The student was disgusted by the idea of melting marshmallows on sticks! But when he finally tried one, he could not get enough!"
Call shared some quotes from his students:
Sean Candelaria declared, "The first step to a BIG adventure! We touch nature and make new experiences."
Gabriela Borjas Alvarez declared, "The Outdoor Club is awesome, and I hope it will keep running."
DD Stein, a Social Studies teacher, has always been heavily involved in outdoor activities, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and biking. She led a local Girl Scout troop (many Blind Department girls are in the troop) for 23 years! Students from the Blind Middle and Blind High School are in her Outdoor Club, which meets once every two weeks. Stein's students have visited many of the same venues as the DHS club. They visited Anastasia State Park and trotted around downtown St. Augustine; they took part in an ongoing garden project on our campus grounds. According to Stein, "Students were able to feast on their garden labors this year when we harvested some sweet potatoes, radishes, basil, and tomatoes."
Stein had particular motivation; she had noticed over the years that her blind/low vision students wanted to engage in outdoor activities but did not know how to prepare to enjoy the outings. Her Outdoor Club is thus prepared – they take water, insect repellant, sunscreen, rain gear, and appropriate shoes and clothing. She shared some quotes from this year's group:
Elizabeth McDaniels enjoyed gardening this year. She said, "Gardening can be complex. You need to have good soil and a green thumb."
Dejonae Levers added, "Learning how to plant things makes it more fun in the garden."
Veronica Hyatt liked the many club hikes around town and in the parks. "I liked Anastasia State Park the most. We had sunscreen and hats, and we looked for shade."
Z'Leah Liburd shared, "Take the proper materials with you, and it will make the going outdoors much better."
Maswmah Al Marzok chimed in, "Take sunglasses and a hat to keep the sun glare off your eyes."
Jessenia Comacho agreed. She liked learning how to take care of herself when outside.
Natalie Cruz learned, "Check the weather before you go."
Brianna Cruz added, "And take a water bottle with you."