At Barnacles & Bees, our monthly Guest Mentors are helping us "see" the world through the eyes of other, impactful people and organizations in our community. And it's awesome!
One of our deepest values at Barnacles & Bees is Community & Inclusion. Our organization would never have been launched if our local community had not come together to support our vision and mission of a sustainable future. However, this place couldn’t be more precious without the amazing people and organizations that are here in Kitsap and beyond.
As such, we began our Guest Mentor program at Barnacles and Bees where we have invited community members to join us in the classroom and share the special skills, abilities and cultures that make up our thriving community. We are working to incorporate Guest Mentors in our classroom every month and so far have had Cindy Van Winkle from Lighthouse for the Blind as well as Kirsten Muller from Kitsap Regional Library. Up next up is our very own Ranger Murray from Illahee State Park!
Guest Mentor Spotlight:
Cindy Van Winkle (and Balsa the Seeing Eye Dog) | Lighthouse for the Blind
Cindy Van Winkle is a member of our blind community here in Kitsap. She joined our classroom in March. Working with Cindy was an amazing experience and having her in the classroom for a day was instrumental in helping our children further understand the amazing world of “Senses;” something that we had already been exploring a great deal in our sensory-rich environment. We were grateful to have Cindy join us with her seeing eye dog, Balsa – details of our day can be found below!
What was our day like with Cindy?
We started the day in our circle. Cindy asked all of the children to go around the circle and tell her their names and ages so that she could get a sense of who they were (and where they were). Once they had introduced themselves, she introduced herself to them and explained a little about what it means to be blind.
When she finished the book, she explained what braille was: a form of writing using raised letters so that blind people can feel the words.
Next, she read a book out loud to the children—"The Pout Pout Fish" by Deborah Diesen, a book that some of the kids were already familiar with. But the remarkable thing to see was that she was reading by using her fingers—reading braille!
When she finished the book, she explained what braille was: a form of writing using raised letters so that blind people can feel the words. The illustrations were also raised and when the book was done, she invited them to come up and feel them. The children thought this was pretty amazing and several even tried feeling the pictures and letters with their eyes closed so that they could share Cindy's experience of the world.
Next, Cindy introduced the kids to her Seeing Eye Dog, Balsa, and taught the children how to approach a working dog that they want to touch. First and foremost, ask the blind or assisted person if you can pet their dog. That person may say no, and if they do, that's okay! BUT they may say yes! If they do say yes, the blind or assisted will likely give instructions on how to pet their dog, but mostly you want to remember to be gentle and pat the dog on the head. This isn't a dog who is going to play or fetch a stick. But some gentle love is perfectly appropriate. Most of the children put this into practice and took turns going up to Cindy and asking if they could pet Balsa.
"Does your blindness make your other senses into superpowers?
The children had a great Q&A with her afterward. Some key questions included: "Does your blindness make your other senses into superpowers? Like can you hear REALLY REALLY good?" (No.) "Is your daughter blind, too?" (No.) "When your eyes are open, what do they see?" This was a tricky one, but the short answer is: nothing. No light. No fuzzy figures. Nothing.
But it is important to remember that not every blind person is blind the same as Cindy.
We ended our time together by playing one of our favorite games: "Fox Feet." Cindy sat in the middle of a circle and held a stick. The kids took turns creeping up to her in an effort to take the stick away. If she heard them, she'd point at them and then it would be the next child's turn to try! We've played this game many times since Cindy's visit to us, and its great fun! Feel free to try it at home!
Barnacles & Bees is hosting an Open House this on May 4th at Illahee State Park. Please join our team where you can learn more about a day in the life of a Barnacles & Bees including our Guest Mentor Program!
Learn more about our Open House on May 4th here.