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Stories Beneath the Waves

September 29, 2011

In the beginning, there was artwork. From the artwork, came stories. Yes…yes, we are indeed talking about marine ecology. No joke.  Marine ecology is NOT just about diving and pretty fishes.  God help us if it was.  Sticking with the cross-disciplinary approach at The Island School, students incorporate themes from other departments, holding them close as they descend beneath the waves. Beautiful dives abound throughout the Cape, yet the beauty is never truly ‘seen’ until one’s attention is focused. This is where the intricate detail is. This is where the nuances come alive. This is where life begins. This is where ecology happens.

Stories are powerful…they inspire, they infuriate, they educate, they enchant, they humor, they teach. Above all, they help us understand; it takes an image and imprints it in our mind.  A wise woman once said that “wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth”. During class, students are encouraged to embrace this approach, to apply it to all incidents of our blue world: the insistent pecking of a parrotfish upon algae-covered coral, the annoyed pursuit of a territorial damselfish, the trusting shrimp patiently cleaning a Nassau grouper. As a species, we tend to think in metaphor and learn through story. At The Island School, we ask the same, no matter what the class…even Marine Ecology.

We want to dedicate this space to excerpts from students’ stories created beneath the waves.

“The water was murky from the sand and silt that the divers had kicked up. We sat in the sand before a majestic display of color. It was as though nature was putting on a play and we were its humbled audience.”

“The French angelfish swims slowly around the tiny piece of reef like she owns it. Separate from the town that exists beside it, the solitary coral head is her palace and all the fish act as her subjects. The tiny fairy damselfish are her ladies in waiting and the sea fan is there for her entertainment. In this tiny kingdom each fish has a job to do, which they’re hurrying to accomplish.”

“Then like a ghost, the monstrous barracuda glides through the water. He is mean, but lonely. He will never be part of this family. And as he moves on in search of acceptance, his shadow disappears, and his scales become one with the water around him.”

“Nature’s play intensified as a lionfish emerged from its den, as fierce and beautiful as the sun. It made sense for a lionfish to be there. It had an almost endless supply of infant fish to feast upon but if you think one lionfish is intimidating, then how would you feel about two? It was a deadly duo dancing and flaunting their allure.

Slowing ascending to the surface, the curtain goes down on the first act. Remember, this was merely the first act; there is so much more story to tell, many more characters to introduce. It is far from over.

–The Marine Ecology Team

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