One of the requirements of AmeriCorps members in the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator program, whether Volunteer Maryland Coordinator or Regional Coordinator, is that all members spend ten percent of their year doing direct service. While the type of direct service can vary from site to site, the basic definition of direct service is that you work with the clients, serving them in the way that a volunteer would. As a Regional Coordinator, I’m using this requirement as an opportunity to volunteer with each of the sites in my region during the course of the service year. Back in November, I travelled down to Easton for the Easton Waterfowl Festival. The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center was going to be there with their Fishmobile and I offered to help as a docent on the Friday of the Festival.
The Fishmobile is one of the unique and creative ways that Phillips Wharf works toward their mission of informing, involving, and inspiring those who live near the Chesapeake Bay to take action on its behalf. A former Bookmobile, the Fishmobile is a bus outfitted with fish tanks and set up in such a way that visitors can walk through and easily see the critters that live in the Bay. It gives school children who normally only hear about Bay life in the classroom and through text books a chance to get up close to and maybe even touch some of the critters that live right in their back yards.
While the task of setting up the Fishmobile each time it goes into use is arduous (catch the critters, fill the holding tank with Bay water, drive to wherever you are going, pump the water into the individual tanks, put each critter into its own tank, then reverse it all to go home), the result is definitely worth it. After a little bit of training from the VMC who serves at Phillips Wharf—and bringing with me a little (stress on little) bit of knowledge about Bay life—I was thrown into the mix. Over the course of the day, we had several hundred visitors tour the Fishmobile. The young children who I got to show around were fascinated by the range of creatures that can be found in the Bay, from the familiar blue crab to the downright alien-looking horseshoe crab. It was a great experience to get to pick up a horseshoe crab and see the looks on the kids’ faces when I flipped it upside down or show them a Diamondback Terrapin and explain that it is the state reptile.
You might be wondering why I’m looking back to November since it is now January, but don’t worry, there’s a good reason. If you have kids or if you yourself have ever wanted to get up close and personal with some pretty cool critters and you live in or a short drive from Baltimore City, you’ll get your chance this weekend. The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center Fishmobile will be visiting the Baltimore Boat Show this weekend. They’ll have some critters to show and some crafts for young children, and if you’ve ever wanted a boat but your spouse told you no, visiting the Fishmobile could be the perfect excuse to do a little boat shopping too! If you can’t make it to the Boat Show this weekend but you’re in the area of Tilghman Island this spring, be sure to visit PWEC when they reopen in April!