Mollusks meet metaphors

A sea shell is not just a sea shell.

It is a trace of the life that left it behind. It is a deeper metaphor.

Creative writing and marine biology students experienced both on a boat trip to Captiva Island on Feb. 1.

On the island’s beach, English professor Ihasha Horn and Biology professor Michael Sauer, tasked their students to search for sea shells.

Biology students found ones listed in their textbooks and identified the creatures that inhabited them.

“Whenever I go out to do a swamp field trip, one of the things I have the students do is have them do an observation, and write a haiku about it,” said Sauer. “Science is useless unless you can communicate it well.”

Creative writing students wrote in their journals about what they found on the beach and expanded them to a deeper metaphor of what it meant to them.

“Shell searching reminded me of my childhood,” said dual-enrolled creative writing student Tori Wensink. “I hoped to learn some metaphorical ways of engaging with nature, like seeing the deeper meanings out of snapshots of life. Anything in nature, simple as waves crashing into shore, can have a deeper meaning if you think about it hard enough.”

While the number of students expected on the trip was over 20, the cloudy sky and stinging rain convinced some students to stay home. Thirteen students accompanied the professors on the boating trip along the coast of Captiva.

Combining and applying the teachings from both departments, however, is more necessary than meets the eyes of the students.

“Look at museums. They have facts everywhere, but many people specialized in creating a narrative in how these facts come to tell the tale of human history,” said Horn. “That’s what I wanted students to do, look at all these pieces come together for the history of the island, the history of the water, our relationship with the water. How all these separate parts come together as a whole.”

Jazmine Santillana

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