The folks out at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center in Biloxi believe that all children should have the opportunity to discover the wonders of sea life first hand. At this week's Sea Camp, disabled children are doing just that with the help of Special Education students from the University of Southern Mississippi.
USM Special Education student Linda Sullivan Cox says marine animals like Floyd the Turtle have helped bring these children out of their shells.
"Yesterday they were afraid to touch the snakes and the alligators, and they held back. But today, they were just eager and jumped up and walked to them and knew their names. It was wonderful," Cox said.
Many of the children have never been so up close and personal with nature. The exhilaration on their faces is hard to miss.
"It's very rewarding in the aspect that a lot of the children that we have here have never ever been that close to the animals," marine educator Allison Sharpe said. "They see these animals on TV. They see them in zoos, but for them to come here and actually interact with them and have this hands on experience is something that they may never do in their lifetime again."
The USM students working with the kids get academic credit. Instructors say for these future special education teachers, there's no better classroom than real life.
"They get the real world experience about day to day teaching and what it's all about and a real connection with the students," professor Teresa Callahan said. "I think that's what's really a valuable input that the sea camp gives them."
The campers also go on field trips outside the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center. They visit places like Ship Island and the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum.
If you would like more information on the camp call 228-374-5550 or visit www.aquarium.usm.edu