This is a tough time of year…all those projects and tests! Leaving friends, family, and teachers who care about you as you move to the next adventure. Mother’s and Father’s Day, and Graduation gifts, stuff for college…it can be daunting! Maybe I can help you look at this a little differently…

Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE celebrating and gifts! “Happy Manatee Monday!” “It’s my Birthday Month!” You let me know what it is and I’ll celebrate it with you! But Squiddos, let me make sure that you are crystal clear on this point… the BEST gifts you can give are those I have tried to regift to you with every opportunity: Passion! Spend time (not money!) really being there with loved ones! Get outdoors and explore with them! Ask questions and wonder together! Your best self and your time are the most difficult yet precious gifts you can give! Share your passion and you’ll never go wrong!

My favorite teacher gifts have been watching Squiddos like you see your big, blue, ocean world with the eyes of someone who is inheriting it all and taking action to become a steward of it. Maybe at some point this year you showed me your new reusable straw, coffee mug or water bottle. Maybe you came in between periods to put a plastic water bottle in our recycling bin so we have another five cents for the turtle rescue fund. Maybe you made a point of asking me if we had time to use the Litterati app while you picked up trash as we waited for the bus to take us home from a long day in the field. Was it you who made me laugh on our field trips by pointing out that there are menhaden in the water to feed the fish and whales and no plastic bags stuck in the trees this year because of the legislation “WE” implemented (thanks to our elected officials who actually read all those letters we wrote!)? And if it was you who sent me messages showing me how many balloons and trash you picked up on the beach during senior cut day, I do appreciate the thought, but you might want to wait and post those on a different day!

These simple gestures are the best gifts you could ever give. You have embraced the Blue Mind life described by Wallace J Nichols in his book—and you know that you are truly the best version of yourselves when you’re near, in, on, or under water! I have spent my entire career trying to protect, preserve, and preach to your inner water babies. If I have taught you anything at all this year, the most important thing I’d love to leave you with is that you already own the best gift of all—no purchase necessary! Find your favorite Blue, share it when you’re able to, calm yourself with it when you need to, and protect it always.