Updated: Jul 19, 2019
After months of test driving a myriad of experiments only a mad scientist would have invented, Captain Coral was finally ready to perform his inaugural show at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. The morning show was made possible thanks to CRF’s recent partnership with the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, and the afternoon show was open to the general public. Derek Hagen (aka Captain Coral), has a background in ecology and theater education, and is Coral Restoration Foundation’s™ Education Manager when not on stage.
Many event goers were unsure what to expect of this unusual edu-tainment, but everyone was left blown away. Hagen managed to crack jokes that appealed to middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults all within the same tangent. Jonathan Hurst from South Broward High School’ s Club C.O.R.A.L who also had a booth at the event, explained
“I wasn't expecting to learn much, but it ended up being entertaining even for older kids. I loved the ocean acidification demo with the water in the beaker turning from green to red as the PH changed.”
Captain Coral suited up in a compelling pirate outfit, including a hat adorned with staghorn coral exoskeletons along the brim, and dramatic black eyeliner. His seemingly never-ending repertoire and boisterous persona brought a variety of complex concepts to life, including ocean acidification, sublimation, and fragmentation, in such a way that kids will be sure to never forget. Children can be a tough crowd, but the energy in the auditorium was electric. Kids of all ages were laughing wildly, jumping out of their seats, and eager to be the next volunteer to get on stage.
For the grand finale, Captain Coral went big and fired battery of homemade canons. The first shot out fire, the next foamed out of control, and the last one emitted huge, mesmerizing fog rings reminiscent of the smoke rings blown by the caterpillar in Alice and Wonderland.
The booths leading up to the auditorium were also nothing short of spectacular and very much on theme. Coral Restoration Foundation™ interns wore sailor breeches as they spoke to event goers about the organization’s mission and approach to restoring the Florida Reef Tract. For the younger crowd, a DIY Coral Slime booth provided a fun way to learn about mucus secretion as a defense mechanism in corals. Julie Letterman, age 11, said
“Today I learned about coral mucus. I love corals because they are pretty and create homes for other animals”
Other local non profits also participated in making the show one of a kind. The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center displayed their spookiest array of specimens including owl and falcon talons, skulls, and wings, as well as X-rays of cormorants having ingested fishing hooks! Jordan Budnik, the Executive Director at FKWBC, handled an Eastern Screech Owl named Mr. Moody, whose single eye (the other was damaged in a car collision) and small shrieks were the perfect conversation starter to teach kids about protecting birds.
MarineLab Environmental Education Center Field Instructors Maddie Howard and Emily Volkmann went above and beyond by bringing a variety of different ocean critters, including starfish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and feather duster worms, all stored in containers designed like treasure troves. Available at their booth was a microscope to get a closer look at these alien-like animals, and diagrams explaining which phylum they belonged to.
“ The booths gave us a chance to learn about corals and marine life in a fun way. The animals in the touch tanks were my favorite!” - Rahsi Bryant, GS
Stay tuned for Captain Coral’s next show as he unveils many brand new experiments!
Captain Coral provides great performances for science fairs, corporate lunch ins, summer camps, you name it! Click here to schedule a showing for your next event!