It’s not a stretch to say that twin sisters Lindsey and Brooke Tanguay have grown up at the Marine Discovery Center.
Entering their senior year at Spruce Creek High School this fall, the 17-year-olds from Port Orange got their start in MDC’s summer camps as campers and now find themselves volunteering as camp counselors.
Here’s what they had to say about their respective experiences at MDC in a conversation with staff writer Lisa Mickey for the August Volunteer Spotlight:
Q: How old were you when you started coming to MDC?
A: (Lindsey) We were in the second grade. (Brooke) We were in camp. (Lindsey) We came to camp every year and eventually we were old enough to start helping out here. We started doing more and more of that and it was pretty fun, so we decided to keep doing it. (Lindsey) It made us really interested in learning biology and the sciences, so we kind of got obsessed. We were like, “Mom, can we go back to camp?”
Q: When did you start as camp counselors?
A: (Lindsey) When we were in sixth grade. We started as soon as we were old enough.
Q: Do you feel like you have grown up at MDC?
A: (Lindsey) I can’t really think of a point in my life before the Marine Discovery Center. It’s always been a big part of my life. (Brooke) We did practically grow up here. This place just makes me feel comfortable. It’s kind of like home away from home and we’re friends with everyone here.
Q: Did you grow up in Port Orange?
A: (Brooke) Yeah, mostly. Before second grade, we lived in Deland, but we started doing local camps in the summer and that’s when we came here and when we moved to Port Orange. (Lindsey) Kindergarten through first grade, we went to Freedom Elementary in Deland, then we went to Cypress Creek when we got here.
Q: You are identical twins. Which one is the oldest?
A: (Brooke) Me, by about one minute.
Q. What have you enjoyed doing here at MDC and what have you learned?
A: (Brooke) I’ve really enjoyed doing a bunch of different projects. We did the salt marsh survey a few years ago and that really got me interested in environmental sciences. I’ve also enjoyed doing camps and kayak tours because they have taught me about the environment and made me want to learn more about it to help. It has really influenced what I want to do in the future. (Lindsey) I like how camps get you out in the water. They don’t just tell you about stuff. You’re actually kayaking through waterways and going through the mangroves or exploring spoil islands while they’re teaching you about it. You get to see the actual animals they’re talking about. It’s been really fun to have a hands-on, feet-wet experience here.
Q: Do you remember how you first got involved at MDC?
A: (Brooke) I think our parents just found the MDC camp and said, “This is interesting. Our kids are total nerds, so they’ll probably like this.”
Q: What do you remember about your earliest experience here?
A: (Brooke) I remember when we first started, we’d go fishing [at Indian River Lagoon Preserve Park], right on the lagoon. I remember when we walked through the woods, I always wanted to go off the trail to explore, but obviously, we couldn’t do that during camp. I also remember the first time I caught a fish at camp. I’m sure it was a pin fish. (Lindsey) I remember one time a wasp got in the classroom out at that park. I was traumatized and everybody was hiding and Miss Lou [King, former education coordinator] walked over and opened the door and the wasp flew out. Another time, I remember we were fishing and somebody caught this really cool green eel. I don’t remember what happened after that.
Q: You transitioned from being kids at camp to now volunteering as counselors. Have you done some other volunteer work here or participated in any of the other citizen science projects?
A: (Brooke) For a while, we volunteered as docents for the exhibit-area tanks. Whenever we saw people in the lobby, “We’d say, hey, come over here. Check this out.” And we’d tell them about it, because obviously, we had learned from the MDC staff and we wanted to pass it on and get other people interested. We mainly helped clean the tanks and feed the animals. (Lindsey) We would come over here on Wednesdays after school to feed the animals and that got me really into this.
Q: What do you enjoy about helping other people learn? Now you are working with little kids who are just like you were not that long ago.
A: (Brooke) It’s kind of interesting to think that at one point, I was their age and I was that immature and goofy. I still am, but it’s really funny to see where we started out and how little kids are learning things. I like to think back to when I was that young and how I got to have hands-on learning all the time. It’s kind of nostalgic, in a way. It’s really neat.
(Lindsey) I like talking about stuff I’m interested in, like the fish and birds. It’s also really fun to teach the campers the mangrove chant and the phylum chants and get them to perform it for us. It’s funny to try to break down that wall of them trying to be all cool and to get them interested and having fun. (Brooke) You can still be cool and enjoy a phylum chant.
Q: During summer camps, do you normally work together with the same group or do you work with different age groups of campers?
A: (Brooke) We work with different groups. I worked with the Loggerheads (age 4-7). Today at camp, we stayed around the center mostly and watched the intern feeding the animals in the exhibits and did other activities in indoors. (Lindsey) I went with the Aquatic Adventurers (age 10-14) and went to the beach with Jimmy Lane for surf camp. (Brooke) The older kids’ camps have more outdoor activities and less of the can-you-tie-your-shoes stuff. I actually forgot that some of them are too young to know how to read. We tried to do an icebreaker activity where we have little questions written down and I realized they couldn’t read the questions. That was embarrassing.
Q: Do you two have hobbies?
A: (Lindsey) I like to do art projects at home. I’ve started trying to do digital drawing, but I also like sketching. Sometimes I’ll do watercolor painting. (Brooke) I also do some drawing, but I’ve started learning how to sew, which has been interesting. I made a pair of pants. They didn’t fit, but I made them. (Lindsey) She also sewed a sash for my Halloween costume.
Q: You both are also now managing MDC’s Instagram account on social media. How did you get involved with that?
A: (Lindsey) We started doing the Instagram for MDC in the ninth grade. It wasn’t as active a while ago, but now we’re doing two posts a week. (Brooke) We do a Wednesday post, usually highlighting events that are coming up or summer camp and we do two posts on Friday for “Guess What Friday?” We post a photo that’s zoomed in and say, “Guess what this is?” It’s been fun. We asked if we could help out with MDC’s Instagram account. We know the internet. (Lindsey) Yeah, I think we have about 2,000 followers now, so we gained about 1,000 followers since we’ve been doing this.
Q: You both have been around long enough to see some big changes at MDC. Talk about what you have seen in the time you’ve been coming here.
A: (Brooke) The most obvious one is the salt marsh restoration because there used to be a high school here. I remember when we saw all the trucks and workers tearing down the old high school buildings. Then when the buildings got torn down, it was just a big open field full of sand spurs. (Lindsey) Inside MDC, it’s now super pretty. The first year we were here, the lab had a big washing machine off to the side, stuff on the counters and the snake was in there. Now, it’s a really nice room with an awesome floor.
Q: Now entering your last year of high school, you’re starting to think about what you want to do in the future. Where do you want to go to college and what do you want to major in?
A: (Brooke) I want to go to the University of Florida and I want to major in either civil or environmental engineering. Because of going to MDC summer camp, I’ve learned about the environment, and because of school, I’ve learned that probably the best way to help protect the environment and make an impact would be in engineering. (Lindsey) I want to go to Florida, too. When we toured there, I saw a major they offer in the engineering field that’s related to digital art. I think I could relate that to an environmental thing and also use my interest in art.
Q: So, it sounds like you both have a balance of mathematical brains, as well as creative interests?
A: (Lindsey) I’m thinking more about drawing dragons and stuff and Brooke’s more the life-smart one. I’m the more analytical one and she’s definitely more creative than me.
Q: Do you plan to room together when you go to college?
A: (Lindsey) I think we’re planning to be in the same building, but trying to room separately. That makes me a little nervous, but I think I’ll like the independence. It will be interesting. (Brooke) It’s a little weird just because we are usually in the same area as each other. It will be a change, but it should be interesting and fun. It just means we’ll have more stories to tell each other and more to talk about it. (Lindsey) She’s going to miss me so much.
Q: Do you two have that twin thing going when you finish each other’s sentences or think the same thoughts?
A: (Brooke) Sometimes, I’ll be thinking of a song and Lindsey will just start randomly singing it and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I was just thinking of that song!” (Lindsey) Or sometimes I’ll say something really vague and we’re both like “oh yeah,” but nobody else gets it.
Q: What excites you the most about helping MDC with its mission statement of preserving and protecting the Indian River Lagoon?
A: (Brooke) I like being involved in all the different projects. I wish I could be more involved, honestly. Like at camp, you feel like you’re making a difference for the younger generation to help them care more about the environment so things will be way better in the future. Maybe global warming will be a thing of the past and nobody will be talking about it because we’ve come that far. (Lindsey) I’m excited about helping get people involved, too, but I think it’s great to give kids the same experience we had. We met really fun camp counselors at MDC. One of them ended up being our babysitter for a while. We also got to go on a lot of trips and adventures. I think it’s just cool seeing kids get the same opportunities we did when we were their age. (Brooke) It’s definitely important to learn not just in the classroom, but to also do activities. That helps you learn, but also makes you more interested in learning more.
Q: What has been the highlight for you at MDC?
A: (Brooke) One of the highlights was the first time I went out in a single kayak. I felt like such an expert! I was so proud of myself to not have to be in a tandem or to need an adult to go kayaking. (Lindsey) I remember one kayak trip really vividly. We paddled past some mangroves and we got to the black mangroves. It was just fun to lick the salt off the leaves and to look down and see the oysters below us and to see fish swimming by and crabs crawling on the mangrove roots. It’s still just a really nice image in my mind.
Q: You are still teenagers, but what do you think you each bring to MDC and the kids in our programs?
A: (Brooke) I’m really dedicated and I think I’m good at helping out wherever people need help. I’m good at rushing around and multi-tasking. There’s a lot of that in camp. And I’ve been here for a while, so I know where things are. I know a lot about the exhibits and most questions people ask me about them, I can actually answer, which feels really good. (Lindsey) I like to bring energy and fun. That’s important to me because that’s what got me interested, especially in things like kayaking, but even in simple things, I am able to make it seem more fun. I’ve had a lot of experiences here, so I can tell the kids more stories – like the story about the eel that we caught. I’ll never forget that.