Wednesday, January 19, 2022

One Great Way to Prepare for THE CAT – it’s Coming Back!

Rumination From the Rock and Beyond

The Key Marco Cat. | Photos by Jory Westberry

You’re probably aware or should be aware that the Key Marco Cat is coming back to the Marco Island Historical Society Museum in January 2019 – it’s the most amazing event to happen to Marco Island since the discoveries unearthed by the Pepper-Hearst Expedition to Key Marco in 1895-1896.

Since the discovery of these prec-ious artifacts, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC has kept the Marco Cat under lock and key. The University of Pennsylvania has also kept some artifacts under lock and key and yet, they will both be sending them back to the Marco Island Historical Society Museum along with the Marco Cat where they will still be kept under high, hush-hush security during their exhibition. Why? Because they are the most historically significant artifacts found in Florida EVER.

Many of you will be frequent visitors to the museum while the artifacts are here, enjoying all the Calusa exhibits, Modern Marco, the documentation of hurricanes, Deltona exhibits and much more. But, how might you prepare your visitors and children ahead of time for your visit so they glean as much as possible about the difficulty and importance of this discovery?

There’s a great opportunity for you right up Livingston Road at the North Collier Regional Park at 15000 Livingston Road to be exact. It’s a park and playground at the same location as C’mon Children’s Museum and Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, so you can’t miss it.

When you see the signs and walk up to the designated play area, the first thing you’ll see are two gigantic Marco Cats, seemingly guarding the archeological digging area. The real Key Marco Cat is nowhere near the size of these replicas, but they’re fun to look at.

We discovered a pelican figurehead, and who knew that pelicans existed in Florida back then!

Under the shaded pavilion are several informative signs that show some of the artifacts. Just learning about them entices children to start their digging – yes, I said “digging!” The Parks and Recreation Department has created a simulated rock/sand site with hidden artifacts under the sand – talk about fun! My grandson and I had a ball excavating the sand to find the treasures. After finding one, we’d go back and check the informative signage and realize what we had discovered and go back to keep Yes, there are pails, shovels and other sand toys available to use. Even with the summer heat, there were lots of kids and parents enjoying this active-learning activity in the shade.

After your archeological dig exper-ience, you can walk next door and enjoy a ride in a huge, inner-tube down the Lazy River at Sun-N-Fun, or the four careening slides after mounting the steps to the top, or many temperature-adjusted pools and activities.

Better yet, you could experience the dig, the pool AND walk across the street to C’mon Children’s Museum for two floors of activities to engage children and spark learning. My grandson and I spent the most time catching fish and assembling structures with colored “straws” and joints created to connect the straws. Some of the structures being built by those around us provided new ideas and additions to our inventions, which is what collaboration is all about, right? And discovery.

These aren’t the only activities that provide fun in Naples and on Marco Island, but digging like the original excavation team (well, okay, the original team dug in mucky, swampy, gook on Marco Island, not sand) is sure to inspire interest and more understanding of the process. Take the time to learn with your children and then visit the Marco Island Historical Museum during January, when the artifacts will be displayed and open to the public. They expect thousands of visitors, but you and your children will be the best informed!

Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!


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