Iremember the first time I saw Fox Island in the fall of 1981. I went down as Assistant Manager
for piecemeal trips at first. I was sort of a free
agent and wasn’t rooted to one particular spot.
To get out there, we took a wide, flat boat
that just slid through the water. The others
onboard were all excited to go out and I could
tell they knew it would be dramatic for me.
When Fox came into sight, I could see this little spot building on the horizon like a mirage.
It got bigger and bigger and stood out there
so starkly. I was really struck by how cool and
unique the place was. I think it has an impact
on students, approaching this place they are
going be for a while and to see it emerge on
the water is pretty dramatic.
Because it is isolated and so different from
where people live, I quickly learned that Fox
has had a transformative ability, beyond any
place I’ve ever tried to inspire people to be
connected to nature. When students are not
in their normal routine, they are more engaged
and I just thought it was a phenomenal place
to do environmental education. Kids would
connect with you right away and were very
touched and inspired by the island.
We did a lot of experiential, hands-on, sensory
programming. We’d get them out on a marsh
get them to lay down and listen and absorb
the sight, smells, and sounds. There was a
great grass bed right out from Fox so we could
take the boat and run a grass net and pull in
the rich life.
We did oyster raking, or tonging, to experience the hard, manual labor there, and set
crab traps as well. We were trying to have
them understand the tools of the trade and the
physical demands of the life of a waterman.
We usually did one long beach walk and
sometimes they’d find arrowheads. We talked
about American Indian history and how they
used the Bay and its resources.
We’d do a marsh mucking if the group and
teacher were game and would really get into
that. We would get down on our bellies, be
muskrats in the marsh and really travel in the
mud. We’d get pretty muddy.
The physical reality at Fox was pretty stark and
challenging at the time. We had these things
called “destroilets.” They were propane-fired
toilets and the concept was that when you put
the lid down, a flame burns the waste. This
brought a lot of merriment to the kids.
The challenge to personal comfort was one of
the things that made the students really receptive to learning. At the very end of the trip, we
would sit around and pose questions meant to
be evocative and what you’d get from students
was phenomenal. They had a life-changing
experience and understood the Bay as a living
thing and they had a deeper connection to it.
Since working at CBF, the urgency of the environmental issues and need to connect people
to the environment and understand and care
about it is the biggest thing on my mind to this
day. It was a pivot point for me and showed
that you can transform people’s lives and open
their eyes to nature.
Cindy Dunn is Secretary of
the Pennsylvania Department
of Conservation and Natural
Resources and a former
Cindy Dunn, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
and former CBF educator on Fox Island, enjoys fishing in local rivers and streams.
Cindy Dunn recalls her first glimpse of Fox Island, which is celebrating its 40th year as a
CBF Education Center: “When Fox Island came into sight, I could see this little spot building
on the horizon like a mirage. It got bigger and bigger and stood out there so starkly.”
The “destroilets” Cindy remembers were upgraded to composting toilets shortly after her time at Fox.
A Spot on
By Cindy Dunn
18 Fall 2016 l cbf.org