a·wak·en·ing: an act or moment of becoming aware of something.

These past three days I experienced many awakenings on our 5th grade field trip to “Sea Camp” in the Florida Keys. The first morning I awoke to this beautiful sunrise. I was reminded of God’s power, creativity and majesty. I watched creation respond as the sun made its journey into the sky. A beautiful site that I often miss during the hectic pace of a regular school day. In the background I heard two students calling, “Mr. Fiore, Come check this out!”  I was shocked to see them up and out of bed on their own at 6:15am! (I guess in God’s classroom there is no need for an alarm clock.) They spotted a school of tropical fish swimming near the sea wall. The three of us sat and watched as the fish went casually about their morning routine without a care or worry.

After breakfast, it was time to wade through the shallow water to explore coastal and marine ecology on Horseshoe Island. As we began to get our feet wet, our Sea Camp instructor scooped up some cassiopea (upside down jellyfish). She explained the interesting characteristics of this life form that none of us knew even existed until today.Most of the students were now excited to discover more of creation’s hidden secrets but one of them froze in fear and refused to go farther into the water. After some coaxing and a  “pep talk” on conquering fear, we all made it out to the island. We hiked through the mangroves and learned all about the different plant species that live in the Keys. The students were so engaged and amazed by everything they witnessed. Before we left the island, they covered themselves in the “sea mud”  and played hide and seek in the mangroves. On our way back through the water, the boy that froze with fear going over was now proudly leading the pack back to camp. He had his own awakening on the power of overcoming your fears.

The next day the students ventured to “Squid Dissection: 101”.  After learning all about this sea creature and its body parts, they started to dissect each intricate organ and identify them. I was surprised to see that the girls were just as into it as the boys. (I have to admit, after just eating lunch, I was not as enthusiastic.) I was amazed at not only how well they worked together but at their recollection of the lesson. I was once again awakened to the fact that learning is so much more powerful when it is truly experienced.

The students had many more opportunities to interact with marine life on their snorkeling boat trip out to the coral reefs. Their excitement and willingness to try things they have never done before reminded me why I enjoy teaching so much. The cool temperature of the water may have detered me, but not them. Their favorite snorkeling discovery was a large sea sponge covered in sea grass.  I only wish I could make every lesson in my classroom as exciting and as impactful as the ones they had experienced in God’s classroom.

On our last night, we all sat under the darkened sky for a campfire. There were no city lights to distract us from the magnitude of the experience. I looked up and saw so many stars.  Some of the students even spotted shooting stars. They were so proud to share the names of some of the constellations they recognized. I contemplated a quote from a book I had read, “the stars are pinholes in the curtains of heaven.” No picture in a textbook or video on a laptop could compare.

LIFE LESSON: Learning is much more powerful when it is experienced. It awakens thoughts and truths in us that help define who we are and what we believe. On Earth, God’s classroom, He has provided us with such amazing opportunities to learn all about Him and about life. As a great teacher should, He gives us the freedom to explore on our own but is always there when we need help. He uses many methods to engage us. His ideas are revealed “in pictures” by creation. His character is revealed in “promises” through His written Word, the Bible. His heart has been revealed “in person” through Jesus.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.”  Psalm 19: 1-2  “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Psalm 33:5