When he was growing up, Randy Sarton remembers walking through the Wisconsin swamps with a frog in each hand searching for more critters. Pure bliss was poling along the shoreline to explore. “Early on, I had a real sense of wonder about the beauty of nature,” he explains. “I was the kid catching turtles in a leaky rowboat. Or I could stare and stare at a 200-year-old oak tree and think, wow.”
Sarton’s fierce curiosity for nature served him well, even beyond childhood. As an adult he ultimately became a certified master naturalist in Florida. His passion for sharing his knowledge led to being an integral part in creating Nature’s Wonders, a children’s program at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, where kids wear lab coats and become junior marine biologists studying sea life such as baby crabs and sea horses. They can find their inner Jacques Cousteau in the Nature’s Wonders facility filled with 11 giant tanks containing sharks, turtles, baby alligators and eels.
Under Sarton’s direction, kids investigate reptile skeletons through microscopes, learn about tortoises’ eating and nesting rituals, and study the inner workings of the rich mangrove ecosystems in the resort’s preserves. “There’s nothing like a child bringing in a parent,” says Sarton. “Sometimes, I’ll step back and listen to them give their parents a tour like a tour guide would. I’ll hear things that I said to the child earlier. That gives me a strong sense of reward.”
Read more: Jeryl Brunner, HuffPost