Using discarded buttons, can lids, electrical cords, mesh bags, milk crates, newspaper bags, plastic soda bottles, pool noodles, rubber gloves and straws, volunteer artists led by Roslyn Zinner of Long Reach created coral, fish, jellyfish and octopus to simulate a coral reef experience last weekend for Howard County children.
Zinner was inspired by a snorkeling trip to the Caribbean with her husband, David, and wanted to find a way to bring the experience back to Howard County.
Zinner partnered with the Columbia Association to create Coral Reef Encounter, a simulated coral reef experience at Macgill’s Common Pool in Columbia, that launched in 2019. The event drew more than 600 children and 320 adults over a two-day period, according to its website, and returned for a second time last weekend.
Zinner, 70, who is an artist, said she wanted to use art as a way to bring the coral reef experience closer to home and teach children about protecting the ocean.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could have a simulation of a coral reef in a pool and other people could experience what it’s like to be in a coral reef and get some of the joy and education they could get from being in that very unique environment,” she said.
Funding for the encounter was provided by a creativity grant from the Maryland State Council for the Arts. Lifeguards were provided by the Columbia Association.
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Tauna Caffey, 66, has served as a volunteer for the encounter since it launched in 2019.
She was excited about using her expertise to help children learn about the ocean.
“One of the things that I’m hoping that kids can understand is that the ocean is not just going to the beach and playing in the waves and splashing around, there’s a whole world under there and it’s pretty amazing,” Caffey said.
Zinner said she hopes the encounter helps children learn ways to better protect the ocean.
“We want to educate [children] about the environment and how to treat it and we also [want] to see kids learn how to swim and be comfortable and safe in the water,” she said.