Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

August 20, 2012

Bioluminescence and the Start of Another School Year

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:41 am
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  Looking for a few days of relaxation and rejuvenation before the beginning of another school year, the Caribbean beckoned.  Who would have imagined that I would find not just rest, but inspiration for my teaching, and for my students, who will be teachers, on a moon-less night in a secluded bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

The concierge told us there were no power boat reservations available, and to visit this natural phenomenon we would need to join a group kayaking tour.  With trepidation I agreed, not wanting to miss seeing one of the few bioluminescent bays in the world.  I have never kayaked, my fear of small boats overtaking me, but off we went.  We arrived to see dozens of very young people strapping on life jackets and we were briefed on the 2 mile round trip kayaking we would do, in the pitch dark, through a mangrove forest, following the small LED light on the boat in front of us and trying to avoid low hanging branches and the roots that dot the shoreline.  That I couldn’t see much actually kept me stay calmer in the gently rocking kayak, and eventually I noticed a change in the water.  Each time we paddled, the water shimmered, as if stars were stirred from the bottom of the channel.

When all the kayaks reached the bay, our guide explained the bioluminescence we would observe.  The isolated bay is home to a dinoflagellates- an algae organism, that when moved or shaken emit a glow.  We splashed our hands beside the kayak and were treated to a white, shining glow.  As we paddled through the bay, each and every kayak was engulfed in a halo of white water.

It has been weeks since that magical night, but as I work on syllabi and planning for the upcoming term, I wonder how many of our students are simply waiting for the right conditions to stir them to glowing success.  How many of our students will be fortunate enough to have teachers who will follow winding ways, sometimes in seeming pitch dark, to find the route to the quiet, hidden place, where, with a bit of stirring, they will shine?  How many times will students who are hard to reach, who remain apart from the group, who seem uninterested and uninteresting, be left as untouched as a secluded bay.

As the guide finished his bio-chemical explanation for what we were witnessing and entertained questions, I asked why, even before we came into the bay, our paddles seemed to stir stars in the water.  We were extremely lucky, he explained, with the tide going out as we made our way to the bay, the dinoflagellates, even in smaller concentrations, created the sparkle that welcomed us.  Many in our group hadn’t noticed it – they were waiting for the bay and the greater glow they were told was certain.

Parents and educators put in so many days and nights of work with little or no indication of their impact.  Children blessed with the skills and dispositions to provide regular glows of accomplishment can be easier in engaging parents and teachers.  Children who keep us in the dark, who may offer little indication that we are on the right track, can present an enormous challenge and cause us to give up.  Maybe if we forget the big glow we’ve been told to expect, and look instead for the small sparkles our actions can stir, we and the children we teach, can share small wonders.

I will be teaching courses this term that I have taught many times before.  Many of the educators in my class will undoubtedly be in similar circumstances, teaching material they could teach with their eyes closed.  It is easy to turn to autopilot, lean on routines.  On one vacation night, doing something new and totally different left my muscles soar, but my spirit soaring.  So all you parents, educators, and students, ready or not for a new year, here’s wishes for a sparkling journey.                  



  1. Rona,
    What a beautiful משל! Thank you for sharing your inspiring and unusual experience. I can’t wait to share it with our staff at orientation.

    Comment by Naomi Nadata — August 23, 2012 @ 3:46 am |Reply

    • Thanks for reading, and thrilled it will serve your teachers to start the year!

      Comment by Life's Toolbox — August 23, 2012 @ 5:46 pm |Reply

  2. […] Bioluminescence and the Start of Another School Year ( […]

    Pingback by Seeing the light…in a kayak! | small house/BIG GARDEN — August 27, 2012 @ 9:56 pm |Reply

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