I didn't really know what to expect going into the introductions. I soon found out, however, that the students were surprisingly attentive, receptive and even enthusiastic about what I had to say. Many students raised their hands to participate whenever I posed a question and gave me very little trouble. I say "very little" because there seems to always be a student interested in finding opportunities to be funny during a presentation. During one of my introductions, one such student made himself known. I was giving examples of how plants are used and was talking about their use as perfume/cologne ingredients. The student loudly interjected with "Wait, I thought perfumes and colognes were made of whale blubber." I must have been on my game that day because I was able to return fire (good-naturedly and in the spirit of fun, of course) immediately with "There may be a few, and although I'm not going to judge you based on your choice to perfume yourself with whale fat, I'm interested to know how it's working for you." I got quite a bit of laughs from the quick response, a bushel of street cred points and un-interrupted attention from the whole class for the rest of the presentation.
Classroom introduction to the Competition.
Helping the students identify their plants.
As you can see in the pictures above, many of the students brought in plant parts for me to help them identify or determine if they are native to the Keys. It was a little challenging at times because some of the students had only brought in a single leaf or even part of a leaf. Luckily, I was born with a right eye that has a built-in plant DNA analyzer wirelessly linked to the world's best plant name databases, enabling me to determine plant identity in only a few seconds, so it really wasn't an issue. After giving the introductions, the classes went ahead with the Competition and began assembling wreaths later on in the week. I have some excellent pictures of the wreath-making and it is quite hard to choose only a few to share with you. We will be putting together an Olympic Wreath Competition photo album on our Facebook page, which will have many more photos, at a later date - so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, here is a sample of pictures taken during the in-class wreath-making (photos by Patricia Joy of Key Largo School):
Students using a book to identify their plants.
Putting the wreath together.
The students all seemed to have a great time making the wreaths.
A wreath nearly complete.
Great stuff. It's awesome to see such enthusiasm and fun while learning about our native plants and their importance to us as well as the greater natural environment, all of which is core to the mission of The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort. Look forward to more on the Competition in the months to come!