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Ocean Education and Travel Blog

Ocean Discovery Day 2017 - Mural Number Seven!
This year we featured Sharks and Rays of the Gulf of Mexico


Ocean Discovery Day 2016 - Our Sixth Mural!!
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Reef Inhabitants


Summer 2015 and 2016
Galiano island, British Columbia, Canada
Galiano Island is one of our favorite destinations. We have been coming here for over twenty years and we enjoy every season on this island. Orcas, bald eagles, deer, magnificent diving, beautiful forests and cool, fresh air are just a few attractions of this very special place.


Project S.I.T. "Silly Springy Sargassum."
Ribbon Cutting, Saturday June 6th, 2015 at Sea Wall and 6th Street, 
Stewart Beach, Galveston, Texas

Last November my 4th and 5th grade students were excited to collaborate on a proposal for a mosaic bench to be built along the Sea Wall in Galveston. Out topic was "Silly Springy Sargassum." Artist Boat's Seawall Interpretive Trail (Project S.I.T.) public art residency program is a beautification project approved by Galveston County to transform 63 Galveston Seawall benches into educational works of art that depict the coastal and ocean heritage of Galveston Island and the Gulf of Mexico.
We sent in our proposal and in December we received the good news that our proposal had been accepted!
The students started glazing 90 tiles in the form of our design proposal. Finally the tiles were ready for firing and the bench was set up at Stewart Beach. Artist Boat organized a wonderful ribbon cutting event. The bench was sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife and it was dedicated to Captain Webster who researched sargassum. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary representatives came, as well as many of the Yorkshire Academy artists and their families. We came too, of course, along with our grandkids!

                        It was a great day and we are all firmly connected to the Galveston sea coast!

Mother's Day - May, 2015
Smith Oaks Nursery,
High Island, Texas

We have enjoyed visiting the Roseate Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets, Tricolor Herons, Great Egrets, Purple Gallinules, Cormorants and many more for the past four years. Usually we try to visit earlier in the year, at Easter, when we can be sure to see eggs and chicks everywhere. We were late this year, but we were still rewarded with Snowy Egret chicks demanding food from their parents
                                A Mother's Day treat from last year. Spoonbill parents and chicks.
                            This year's Great Egret chicks were very demanding!

Ocean Discovery Day 2015
Community Mural at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary campus.

Our fifth year proved to be even more popular and the community mural was completed in record time! This year the theme for the mural featured the turtle species that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone loves turtles and the conference room at the Flower Gardens campus was packed with eager artists. 


Ocean Discovery Day 2014
Community Mural at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary campus.

This year, our fourth year, as always, Ocean Discovery Day community mural painting was a popular event and old and new friends arrived at the FGBNMS campus ready to paint! The first year we featured the top of the coral reef and last year we dove deeper and showed everyone the beauty of hidden highways and the special creatures that inhabit the deeper, mesophotic zone. Last year we featured the Kelp Forest and this year we showcased the various special of whales that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico.

Once again, sanctuary staff were on hand to explain and make the art experience a valuable educational event. Soon, we heard people discussing the different whales and why they were different  and which whales they already knew. It was another huge success!

Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada 2014
I had an amazing week with dear friends and a wonderful instructor, Glen Bartley, in a  photography workshop on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
We spent each day learning how to finesse our photography skills and we learned many new ones. It was a busy week. We were up very early each day and we headed out with Glen to watch the best light and to find the best birds. Our favorite spot was a golden pond near a golf course in Saanich. Ducks of all descriptions made the pond their home. We hardly knew which direction to aim our lenses.
Glen helped us understand how to choose the best background for our photographs and how to position ourselves for the best compositions. I especially liked the instructions on shooting birds in flight. 
Each evening, we hauled our gear up to our hotel rooms and headed across the street to Robert Bateman's Gallery restaurant on Victoria Harbour. We had eaten there on the first day and the food was so amazing, we ate there every evening. The Salt Spring mussels in white wine broth were irresistible. 

Myanmar 2013

November 2, I left Houston early Saturday morning and flew up to Dallas, where I connected with my flight to Seoul, Korea. Fifteen hours later, after several wonderful meals and lots of films, I landed at Inchon International Airport and found my way to the gate from where I would depart for Yangon, Myanmar.I am excited to be part of the National Art Educator's Association delegation to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

I met with almost all the other delegates on our trip at the gate and we all braced ourselves for another 6 hour flight to Yangon. I am the only delegate from Texas. Most of the other educators come from the east coast, except one teacher who teaches at a native american tribal school in Wisconsin. We are going to all learn a lot from each other.

These are the focus points for the delegation:
  • Establishing and applying educational policy, both on national and local levels;
  • Curriculum, planning, including selecting content and establishing standards for teachers and learners;
  • Teaching environments, including the makeup of daily schedules, both in rural and urban settings;
  • Assessment of teaching and learning, and how specialized or magnet 'type' schools may inform decisions about assessment;
  • Teacher preparation - how training methods differ between teachers in traditional school settings and those in alternative learning environments;
  • Teaching artists
  • The influences of local art and culture
  • Community Perceptions about art in schools
Should be a busy, but interesting trip!!
November 4
I have just returned to my hotel after a walk around the busy streets of Yangon, Myanmar. I never dreamed that one day I would be visiting Burma, the country now known as Myanmar.  I grew up on a solid diet of Rudyard Kipling and hearing my English mother singing "On The Road To Mandalay" and learning about the Irrawaddy River and the endangered dolphins which now, sadly only number 22 in the protected areas. But, here I am! I have left my family and my students in Houston, Texas and I am ready to soak up as much as I can to bring back to them.
After landing at Yangon, formerly Rangoon, and a very serious security check we were each presented with a garland of tuber roses and we all welcomed their heady fragrance since most of us were not all that fragrant after the long journey.We met our guide and he attempted to teach us all some Burmese, but I doubt that any of us will remember. He says there will be a test!  I was glad to fall into bed last night - it will take a few days to get used to the time change.Yangon is 12 hours ahead of Houston.

The Traders Hotel is a beautiful place to stay with fabulous art pieces along every wall. 
I spent this morning wandering around the streets of Yangon, not quite knowing where to aim my camera next in this vibrant, relentless city. 

This afternoon, we meet the remaining delegates and we visit Sule Pagoda and the Shwedagon Pagoda which was built around 2500 years ago. It is the oldest pagoda in Myanmar.
I will continue to post events if I can. I have great internet at this hotel, but in a few days we will fly into the interior, to Bagan, the city of 4 million pagodas. I am not sure about internet service from there. 

Tomorrow we visit the National University of Art and Culture and meet with students and visit a local school to see art in the classrooms. 
So, I hope you enjoy the journey with me as we explore this fascinating country . . . 
I have posted three images. 

The view from where I had breakfast this morning.

                                  Beautiful water urns line the streets. It is very humid and hot here, year round, so    
                                                water is very welcome, but we have been told not to drink the tap water.
Decor from an underpass!

Yangon November 9th

posted Nov 8, 2013, 4:45 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 10, 2013, 5:57 PM ]

Up very early this morning to pack and to enjoy this last day in Myanmar. I have one eye on the news watching the typhoon of the century hit the Philippines and also watching its path since we will fly along the coast of Vietnam and Hong Kong. Hopefully we will depart tonight before it hits that area.
This is the third terrible typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. 

It is a pretty day and I am excited to see what Yangon has in store for our final day here.

After a great breakfast, we walked along the very busy Bogyoke Aung San Road to the market. We passed the Rangoon Railway Station which is currently under reconstruction. It is a beautiful building and it will be interesting to see what it will become. Construction is everywhere in Yangon. By next year, there will be another two thousand hotel rooms available in Yangon. But, I digress! One of the teachers we met at the International School gave us the name of his wife, who has a jade shop in the Bogyoke Aung San Market. We all wanted to see Burmese jade! (especially me!!!!) The market was incredible. We all had serious sensory overload at the sight of clothing shops, jewelry shops, wood carving shops and on and on. Eventually, we decided to split up and meet back at an appointed time and place so we could all accomplish our wish lists!! We only had 2 hours to shop, so we were very focused.

We skirted the sidewalk stalls carefully with our bags of goodies and walked back to the hotel where we met up with our group and headed out to the National Museum. We could have spent days in the museum looking at floor after floor of folk art, tribal art, models of Myanmar Royalty and much much more. 

Back at the hotel once more, we packed our bags and hung out in the lobby sharing our personal "take aways" from this trip and what we might take to our students and how we might interpret this culture into a meaningful experience for our students. The leader of our group, Dennis, came up with a "Then and Now" task to publish in the National Art Educator's magazine. 

Later, on to the airport and the beginning of our various long journeys home to family, friends and students.

Bagan. November 8th

posted Nov 8, 2013, 4:39 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 8, 2013, 6:12 PM ]

Up very early this morning to take advantage of the morning light to photograph the hundreds of pagodas and temples along the east bank of the Irrawaddy River. 
Climbing up the very steep stone steps of the Shwe-Giu-Gi pagoda (pagodas are solid structures, temples are able to be entered) we all looked in awe at the sea of temples and buildings below us. We were seeing the Ancient City of Bagan. Those of us with iPhones walked slowly around the top of the pagoda trying to capture in panorama the old buildings in the morning mist, but although the images came close, it will never really describe the view.
Yet, for all the magnificence, there truly was a sense of calm and reverence across the ancient site. There are thousands of pagodas and temples. Some are in disrepair and some are still used. 
The sun came up slowly and the mist burned away and we could see green fields of grass and corn and black sesame and acacia trees. We heard children and chickens and geese and horses and all the sounds of the small villages waking up. This image is just a very small view from the pagoda.

Later, we drove over to visit the Jetawan Monastic Education Centre. The school is situated in Ancient Bagan and was established by a monk in 2006. The founding monk spoke and our guide translated that he had a very poor childhood in Yangon. Late 1990, he traveled to Bagan and he told us he realized that education was the way to lead a valuable life. He told us that "Education is a very good friend."
 He said "you can lose everything, but education remains inside you and can never be taken away."
Two elderly ladies taught English at the school, and although they stood while the monk sat in a chair, and slope, their pride in their little school was so strong, they often interrupted him and spoke to us telling us about "their school." Lots of wonderful images including the shoes neatly stacked in shelves at the edge of the building.
It was wonderful.
We spoke with the monk for quite a while before meeting the students and speaking with them and hearing their lessons and their singing. This was by far the best event of our trip. So much to say about this school and this web space will not be enough!!
We very reluctantly left after spending the morning with these humble and hard working people.

We stopped at a market, and walked through a maze of fish, fruit, clothes, vegetables, eggs, rise, plastic ware, you name it! Life in Ancient Bagan! It is common to see people - men, women and children - wearing a mask like make-up on their faces. This is a paste made from the thanaka bark They grind it up and add  water and they apply it is decorative ways on their faces. It is used as a sunscreen and a blemish remover!

We returned to the hotel to pack and then had a fabulous Thai lunch before visiting a sand painting workshop. Such an interesting form of art - I am looking forward to trying this at our school!
Then we all climbed up on horse drawn carts and slowly ambled through the Ancient Bagan city, right up close to the old buildings we had looked down on that morning. The driver was a young boy. He finished school, he said, at grade 8 since that was all he was going to need.  
He took us to another temple with four huge gold buddhas at each point of the compass and we wandered, barefoot again, through the cool building.

Later at another temple, we climbed to the top and this time it was to see the old city at sunset.
Finally, on to Bagan Airport for the flight back to Yangon. 
We had a dinner with the university directors at the hotel, and although it was very late by the time we landed and found our luggage  and checked in to the hotel, the university faculty was waiting for us.
After dinner they presented each of us with the portraits that the students had worked on a few days ago and they also gave us a marionette puppet! It was very unexpected and so very characteristically thoughtful.

Today will be our last day in this gentle, relentless, humbling country. We will spend time in the market and then visit the Art Institute before heading out to Yangon Airport for our bid flights home. I am looking forward to getting home, but also sad to leave this place.We keep hearing about Myanmar being an "emergent" nation. I am just not sure about into what they are emerging. Easy for me to judge!  I know I have seen it at what Wordsworth calls a "spot in time" where it has made a life long impression and will not ever be the same again.
What a privilege to meet these kind, gentle people who have so warmly welcomed us all to their country.

Bagan, November 7th

posted Nov 8, 2013, 3:27 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 8, 2013, 6:32 PM ]

After an interesting flight on a little prop plane with Yangon Airlines via HeHo and Inle Lake and Mandalay, we arrived at The Amazing Bagan Resort! Our guide informed us that it would not be very amazing, but it really was!
It was very different from the busy city of Yangon. Everywhere you look in Bagan - everywhere - there are temples and pagodas. Everywhere. They are all mostly built of red brick and many of them have the beautiful gold leaf covering. As soon as we left the airport, the religious significance of Bagan was all present. At present, a total of 3122 ancient buildings are already recorded and this number does not include mural paintings, stucco art, glaze relief plaque or terra cotta buildings. The name of Bagan means "crushing of enemies" and it was an ancient city that thrived from 1st to 13th century covering 1300 years.
The resort was quiet and spread out with beautiful trees and flowers everywhere. Bagan is rushing to take advantage of the tourist industry that is emerging since this country opened up three years ago. The infrastructure in not quite there to support this influx of visitors. There is little or no internet support and it is sporadic. 
The good thing for us is that we are seeing the country still much as it was, in another year, it won't be the same. 

This morning we visited the Lacquerware Institute of Bagan. The teacher and director of the Institute gave us a detailed explanation of the process and then we saw a classroom where students learn this craft. The master teacher drew - freehand - one of the traditional designs that they use in their beautiful craft. We teachers were at home sitting at the student desks in the classroom. It is an intricate art with so many processes. Patience is required for sure!
We stopped at a lacquerware workshop and we all bought some pieces!!

After lunch, we visited the Shwe-zi-gon Pago Temple. It was built around 1100 AD and to say it is magnificent is not even close. We removed our shoes and entered the huge temple and wandered through the quiet and calm stone hallways. 

Then on to the Irrawaddy River for an evening cruise. During the time in Bagan, we have all been besieged by small people selling longis, post cards, marionettes, everything. We soon discovered that they have been following us. As soon as we leave someplace, they hop on motor bikes and arrive just as we are exiting our bus! They are there at every temple, and of course they are meeting us at the Irrawaddy River. They all speak many languages enough to sell their wares and it is quite a feat to make it out of our bus without buying something! They all know our names and it is like meeting old friends again at every stop!
Dinner that night was outdoors. There was a loud band of musicians accompanying a marionette performance. We were all ready for bed!


Yangon, November 6th

posted Nov 5, 2013, 5:24 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:32 PM ]

November 6, 2013
Leaving this morning to visit the International School, then to the airport to fly north to Bagan. Hope to be able to post from there!!
I am in Yangon right now. Bagan is to the north on the Irrawaddy river.  

Yangon, November 5th

posted Nov 5, 2013, 6:09 AM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 5:31 PM ]

November 5th, 2013
We left the hotel early this morning and drove north to visit the Gitameit Music Centre. It is a non- profit community centre and music school. We heard some wonderful performances. The school is a small building that only has electricity for 4 hours each day. The director came up with acapella music pieces so the choir could still sing even if they lost power. 
After many photos, we reluctantly left the school and headed across the city to the National University of Arts and Culture. There, we were treated to several musical performances including some wonderful marionette dances before having a lunch with other delegates from many different countries.
Later, we met with faculty from the University and the director. 

Finally, we were shown to the Art department!! We all walking in and found a line of artists with chairs in front of them. We all sat down and they artists sketched us. They were fantastic. After 10 minutes we all had a wonderful, personal sketch of ourselves.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at another pagoda and after a hair raising trishaw ride across the city, we landed back at our air conditioned and comfortable hotel! It was a great day - lots of interesting experiences and exchanges but it was hot!! I was so ready to relax in air conditioned comfort and reflect on the kindness and calm of the Burmese people that we met today. 

Marionette puppeteers.

The artist with my sketch at the university.

Yangon, November4th

posted Nov 4, 2013, 8:10 AM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Nov 10, 2013, 5:01 PM ]

November 4th, 2013
This afternoon we met with the delegates in our group and departed for a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is simply unbelievable. The main pagoda is 230 feet tall and at its tip is a diamond orb containing 1,800 carats of diamonds. 
The pagoda was built as a shrine to house the eight hairs from Lord Buddha when he obtained enlightenment.
The shrine was maintained from 600 BC to the 14th century and in 1774, it was rebuilt to a height of 326 feet. It is astonishing to walk barefoot with hundreds of devotees through a seemingly endless city of gold. 
It sounds garish and commercial, but it is not. The gentle Burmese people make the shrine a very mystical place.

We spent three hours wandering around the 114 acres of the pagoda shrine. I found my planetary post which has the symbol of a dragon!

By the time we departed, the sun had set and we heard the sound of bells each time a worshiper paid homage to the buddha.

We all shared a wonderful meal in Yangon and looked forward to a big day of professional meetings tomorrow.

Sea Change . . . .

posted Jun 21, 2013, 5:09 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Jun 22, 2013, 5:07 AM ]

This year, I will move on from the exciting opportunities I have had with Young Audiences of Houston as Teaching Artist. I have loved my many and varied experiences and opportunities with Young Audiences. I know I am going to be a better teacher through teaching a wide variety of subjects through the arts.
I especially enjoyed my time at Carter Academy. I think it was extremely valuable to work along side the teachers there, as we explored ways of teaching Math, Social Studies, Science and English Language Arts, all through art.
I will move on to teach Art and English Language Arts at Yorkshire Academy in Houston, Texas starting this Fall. It is a wonderful school and very supportive of all my interests and passions.
I love my students and I love how they plunge into learning all about marine life from the surface down to the very bottom of the ocean and how they fearlessly create their interpretations of life in our ocean. I am so excited for this sea change!

Wonderful Talented Students

posted Jun 21, 2013, 4:45 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Jun 22, 2013, 5:04 AM ]

So much to say about the incredible students it has been my honour with whom to work.
From the National Association of Black SCUBA Divers Youth Education Summit's origami wishes for the Gulf of Mexico, to the fifth grade students who created insightful collages to illustrate the transformation of the protagonist in "Hatchet," I have loved the many and varied creations
Another honour was to have my art exhibited at Houston City Hall and meet Mayor Parker.

Reef Week - San Pedro, Belize. May 2013

posted Jun 21, 2013, 4:23 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Jun 22, 2013, 5:00 AM ]

The beginning of May saw me back in my studio in the garage! This time I was creating a template for Reef Week in Belize. Dr. Rachel Graham, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Shark and Ray project invited me to come to Belize to lead a community art project to create awareness about the marine environment, in particular the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Rachel sent me photos of all the marine life they wanted included in the template. I created a compilation of the four ecosystems that make up the Hol Chan Marine Reserve - mangroves, turtle grass, coral reef and deep ocean.
My huge template painting (6' x 12' see below) was completed just in time. In addition I had to bring paints, brushes and canvases with me to Belize!  The painting fitted nicely into a fishing rod tube and all the art supplies arrived safe and sound in San Pedro.
We set up the activity on Central Square. Despite monsoon rains, sand and wind, the community all arrived and school children shared paint with their parents and the local community. It really was an inclusive event and they produced a wonderful piece of art that had, as its artists, 162 stewards of their marine environment.

Ocean Discovery Day 2013

posted Jun 21, 2013, 3:16 PM by Jacqui Stanley   [ updated Jun 21, 2013, 3:16 PM ]

Ocean Discovery Day at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary 2013

posted June 21st, 2013 by Jacqui Stanley

This year, as always, Ocean Discovery Day was a popular event and old and new friends arrived at the FGBNMS campus ready to paint! The first year we featured the top of the coral reef and last year we dove deeper and showed everyone the beauty of hidden highways and the special creatures that inhabit the deeper, mesophotic zone. This year, we decided to move to another habitat in the National Marine Sanctuary system: The Kelp Forest.

As in the past 2 years, the garage became my studio and I covered the walls with a collage of photographs I had taken on several dive trips to the Channel Islands. Seven weeks later, the canvas came off the wall and was delivered to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary campus.
Once again, sanctuary staff were on hand to explain and make the art experience a valuable educational event. Soon, we heard people discussing habitats, and naming the wide variety of marine animals found in the beautiful kelp forest.

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