Friday, September 18, 2020

Virtual Tours Stimulate the Senses for Actual Tours… Someday Soon? Maybe?


Photos by Jory Westberry | These birds are fearless and stunning.


Our teachers and students have been learning electronically since March 30th. Although it’s not the real thing with personal handshakes, high fives and hugs, our teachers have made great strides to create and present lessons that follow the curriculum maps with humor and interesting content that still engage their students, even daily, on a screen. Technology has bridged a learning gap that would not have been possible20 years agoSo in one small way, we’re fortunate that the pandemic hit us when the means for electronic/distance learning is possible. 

Back in the ole days, 1989 to be exact, I had one of the first cellphones—it was a bulky, heavy, black thing that had to rest in a bigger, heavier, bulky box when you weren’t trying to get a signal. Signals were almost impossible to locate as the need for cell towers had barely been a glint in the inventors’ eyes yet. There was no way it could fit in a purse, pocket or suitcaseokay, the suitcase is an exaggeration, but it was awkward, to say the least. You could barely hear if you had to make a call. I can’t imagine what education would have looked like then if faced with COVID19 and the lack of technology then. 

Remember Dick Tracy? He was a handsome detective who was known for his crime-fighting prowess. The comic strip featuring the Dick Tracy character was first published in 1931 by creator and American Cartoonist Chester Gould, but it wasn’t until 1949 that Detective Tracy first wore the two-way, wrist radio in the comic strip.  

The quiet beauty of nature comforts the soul.

Chester Gould had an inventor friend way ahead of his time named Al Gross, a man who had already invented a ham radio, a walkie-talkie, a telephone pager and a two-way radio that could be worn on the wrist. The inventive foresight of Al Gross was the impetus for his friend Chester Gould to include the two-way, wrist radio in the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1949. The “two-way” meant that you could talk to and also see who you were talking to. 

This new-fangled invention was theoretically used to expand communication between the detectives and police force to help arrest the devious criminals they pursued. Ironically, the idea of the two-way, wrist radio was rejected by Gould’s Editor until 1949. Maybe it was too futuristic “back in the day! 

However, the introduction of the two-way wrist radio in the 1949 Dick Tracy comic strip paved the way for the future introduction of the Smartphone, Smartwatch and all the capabilities that are available now. You can set exercise goals and tabulate your steps accumulated during the day/week, check your sleep patterns or heartrate, schedule your events, accept phone calls, read text messagesall from a glance at your wrist. And, you can even see what time it is! 

Thanks to technology, many local attractions are now conducting virtual tours including, but not limited to, Collier County Museums, Naples Botanical Garden, Naples Zoo, and Collier County BeachesYou can also go to Google Earth to virtually tour all 32 National Parks in the US. Another special place I want to share with you, virtually, is the Everglades Wonder Gardens, which like the others, will be a great learning space to visit after COVID-19. It’s not as big but has quite a history and some other special features that you’ll enjoy. 

Originally named the Bonita Springs Reptile Gardens, it was way before its time in 1936. It opened as a place to rehabilitate injured wildlife and let visitors learn more about the native animals. By the 1950s, its’ name and purpose changed. Now called the Everglades Wonder Gardens, it exhibited American crocodiles, and long before others had recognized the problem, a breeding program had been started for Florida pantherswhich were endangered. The attraction was started by two brothers, Lester and Bill Piper, who were early settlers to Bonita Springs. Most of the resident wildlife are rescued and given a second, safe home. 

The gardens were ruined during Hurricane Irma and it closed for repairs and rehabilitation for months. Today, the gardens cover three acres with “old” Florida growth and vegetation from all over the world. This garden is not at the same botanical level as the Naples Botanical Garden, but it has lots of critters surrounded by orchids, bromeliads, flowering trees, staghorn ferns and towering trees that have rebounded with lots of TLC. Recovery is a challenge with a small garden enterprise like this one, so the price of an actual visitation ticket or donations go a long way to help this worthy destination. The Everglades Wonder Gardens are located at 27180 Old 41 Rd. in Bonita Springs. 

One of the exceptional experiences for me was observing the wildlife there. Walking the paths to see the various animals and birds is very peaceful. Best of all there is an amazing flamboyance of pink flamingos that you can feed right from your hand. And yes, that’s the term for a group of flamingos! It’s a unique experience and one I’d return for when it opens again. There are other critters there, plus parrots, lorikeets, a native butterfly garden, owls, alligators, a walk-in birdcage with birds that perch nearby and eat the food out of cups you bring them, peacocks that love to show their amazing feathers, tortoises, snakes and much more. You might take the virtual tour and go in person when the quarantine is over. They also have native plants for sale at great prices and a gift shop with many unique items.  

There are some, not many, In Real Life (IRL) nature escapes that are still open, but not many. Here are a fewEverglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Gordon River Greenway, but doublecheck because the situations may have changed. Above all, start making your plans for AC (after COVID-19) and keep your safe distances for now. 

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