Nearly 4,000 children and adults of all ages visited the SoundWaters booth at area festivals this fall, eager to touch and hold animals from Long Island Sound. Terrapins, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, mussels and oysters captured the imaginations of visitors to the Oyster Festival and Live Green festivals in Norwalk, and the Waterside Diversity Festival in Stamford.
Many people are surprised that the animals we bring from our Teaching Aquarium actually live in Long Island Sound. Others come with personal stories, such as sightings of horseshoe crabs. Regardless, nearly everyone leaves having learned something new: that the sea creature with five arms is called a “seastar” not a star fish because it’s not a fish; that the Diamondback terrapin is the only turtle adapted to live in the brackish waters of Long Island Sound; that the horseshoe crab species has been around since before the age of dinosaurs.
We see youngsters who have never touched a live marine animal. But with each little hand that reaches out, eager to hold a hermit crab or seastar, the experience connects that boy or girl to the world about them. Other children impatiently wait their turn to hold every animal and share what they know with their parents. But everyone, whether experienced or not, marvels at the sight of the Diamondback terrapin.
These festivals reinforce our mission of protecting Long Island Sound through education, a commitment that extends beyond the 25,000 school children we reach annually at the Coastal Center and on the Schooner SoundWaters. People protect what they know, and through our public programming at festivals, more people know and care about Long Island Sound.