Category: Amuseum Naturalis

We’re Relaunching Amuseum Naturalis

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is being prepared for a 2018 launch.

After delighting over 10,000 visitors in its first two years, Amuseum Naturalis is coming back in a new location in 2018. St. Martin’s first natural history museum will be expanding to highlight island heritage and culture as well as nature. At the new location, formerly The Old House museum, there will also be community projects including gardens, a composting center and a native plants nursery.

“We are thrilled to create a space to tell all the stories of St. Martin!” announced Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re working with the local community to find and tell stories. We especially want to shine a light on heritage that’s been ignored or suppressed, and show how the island’s history and culture is fascinating and meaningful.”

Amuseum Naturalis is developed and operated by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The group believes this project is important for many reasons. Local school systems are already under stress after Hurricane Irma. School materials on the island come from Europe or North America, and don’t teach enough about local nature or heritage. The Amuseum has been, and will be, free for all. It is a place where young people can discover science and history, and develop valuable skills.

Amuseum Naturalis had over 10,000 visitors in the last two years.

“We’re really happy to see the amount of support the Amuseum is getting,” commented Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “Volunteers have been coming to help clear the property and prepare the site. Everyone who comes falls in love with this place. People from around the world have been supporting with donations. It’s a big project, but together we can make it happen for the island!”

Amuseum volunteers pause for a photo after a recent clean-up session.

Les Fruits de Mer are currently working with volunteers to prepare the new location every weekend, and more volunteers are always welcome. The next volunteer day is Saturday, March 17th, and more information is available at lesfruitsdemer.com and on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page. There is also a crowdfunding campaign raising funds until March 30th. St. Martiners interested in sharing stories or ideas about topics to feature in the museum should contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Learn, Help and Share at Amuseum Naturalis on International Museum Day

Amuseum Naturalis is an all-volunteer museum, and you can join in on Saturday from 3-5pm.

International Museum Day is Saturday, May 18th, and all are invited to participate at Amuseum Naturalis. Visit the Amuseum 9am to noon for free to celebrate and learn about the island’s nature and heritage. Join in as a volunteer from 3-5pm to help make the Amuseum better. Come share your knowledge and talent, or just enjoy, at the free Cultural Happy Hour from 5-8pm.

“Have you been to a museum lately?” asks Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. She can think of two good reasons why you should go: “I think everyone can learn something new at Amuseum Naturalis, even people who know the island very well. We’re also a community museum. We record and share information from the community so this culture and heritage isn’t lost.”

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of nature and heritage located at The Old House in French Quarter. It features over two dozen exhibits covering many local topics, from animals to architecture and poetry to bush tea. The Amuseum has attracted over 5,000 guests since it opened at its current location in July 2018.

The Amuseum is created entirely by volunteers, and monthly volunteer days typically attract 25-50 people. Many of the volunteers enjoy the chance to make new friends while gardening, building or cleaning. The Amuseum has hosted several Cultural Happy Hours, featuring acoustic music, poetry readings and other performances. These events are a great chance to enjoy the grounds and gardens of The Old House, a place that feels very remote for busy St. Martin, especially on a full moon night.

Guests share songs around a campfire at one of the Amuseum’s previous Cultural Happy Hours. (Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi)

International Museum Day is celebrated by museums all over the world, on or around May 18th. The annual event’s goal is to raise awareness that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” In 2018, more than 40,000 museums participated in the event, in some 158 countries.

“It’s really exciting to be part of International Museum Day,” said Amuseum co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “St. Martin has its own wildlife, culture, history and language. There is no big national museum here, but St. Martin needs and deserves museums as much as anywhere else in the world. On the plus side, anyone can help the museums we do have. Anyone can have a voice in how the story of St. Martin is being told.”

People can also take part in Museum Day activities at the St. Maarten Museum on Front Street in Philipsburg. It will be open from 9am to noon, and they will celebrate with the 2019 International Museum Day theme: Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition. There will be games for the children and informative presentations.

Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free. The Museum Day volunteering will be from 3-5pm on Saturday, May 18th and the free Cultural Happy Hour will follow from 5-8pm. The Amuseum is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information and a map is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

New Signs and New Stories at Amuseum Naturalis

Signs that highlight farming history are mounted on planters.

In the last few months, Amuseum Naturalis has added over 60 educational signs and panels. The new signs tell a wide variety of stories about the island’s nature and heritage. The bilingual signage was created and installed by the Les Fruits de Mer association, with funding from France’s Fonds pour le Développement de la Vie Associative.

“Amuseum Naturalis has been telling St. Martin’s most fascinating nature stories since we started,” explained co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “By tripling the number of displays, we’re able to dig deeper into nature and explore many other areas. You can learn about the animals that live only on St. Martin, but also about the roots of traditional agriculture and how St. Martiners designed their buildings to beat the tropical heat.”

The signage includes panels for an exhibit featuring the poetry of acclaimed St. Martin author Lasana M. Sekou.

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum located at The Old House in French Quarter. It has been open less than a year, but has already attracted over 5,000 visitors. Over 2,000 students have visited the Amuseum with school classes or youth groups. The Amuseum is created and operated entirely by volunteers.

“We’re thrilled to showcase more facets of local heritage,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Many kids who come to the Amuseum don’t know about the African roots of Caribbean bush medicine, the history behind St. Martin’s stone walls or why the flamboyant tree is so important on the island. The additional exhibits and our great volunteers help local youth connect with their heritage.”

The new displays are located all around the Amuseum grounds.

With the latest signage in place, the Amuseum is already looking towards the future. The association is currently developing signage to highlight the lives and works of St. Martiners with their Citizens of Change project, funded by the Be the Change Foundation. They also welcome topic suggestions from the community and are eager to work with local experts to develop displays on new topics.

Smaller signs tell the stories of individual plant species.

People interested in volunteering opportunities at the Amuseum can contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com. Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free. It is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Amuseum Naturalis to Launch Research Library and Poetry Exhibit

The Hurricane Protocol exhibit will launch at the Endemic Animal Festival.

The Les Fruits de Mer association will be showcasing two new projects at Amuseum Naturalis this month. One is Soualibra, a free research library focused on St. Martin. The other is an exhibit of poems from Hurricane Protocol, the latest book by acclaimed St. Martin author Lasana M. Sekou.

“We’re excited to launch two projects related to the written word and St. Martin,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “The Hurricane Protocol exhibit will be a new way to experience the work of this renowned St. Martin poet.”

The poems in Hurricane Protocol were written during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. They explore the impact of the destruction on individuals, families and communities. Selections will be presented in a large format outdoor installation, the first museum exhibit for Sekou and the first poetry exhibit at Amuseum Naturalis.

Soualibra is a free research library focused on St. Martin.

Soualibra is a research library collecting books and other materials from and about St. Martin. The library catalog, including links to digital resources, is at http://soualibra.com. The physical library is at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter. It contains over 100 books about nature, history, culture and literature. Soualibra’s wishlist contains many more. Susanne van Mierlo is Soualibra’s head librarian.

“When the libraries on the island closed after Hurricane Irma, it was a wake-up call,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “We can’t offer the range of services of a public library, but a resource focused just on St. Martin that is open to the public is something we think will have lasting value. Only a tiny fraction of this information is available online.”

Susanne van Mierlo is Soualibra’s head librarian.

The launch of the Hurricane Protocol exhibit and a special preview of Soualibra will take place at the Endemic Animal Festival at Amuseum Naturalis. The festival is a free public event for all ages that celebrates the unique wildlife and natural heritage of St. Martin. The 2019 event will take place at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter on Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon. This year’s event is made possible by Gold Sponsor Delta Petroleum and sponsors 97150, BirdsCaribbean, Buzz, IZI Light, L’Auberge Gourmande, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, St. Martin’s Sweetness and Tri-Sport.

Make a Museum and Plant Native Seeds on Saturday

Over 300 plants were given out at the Amuseum’s free plant stand in the past few weeks.

Local association Les Fruits de Mer invites everyone on St. Martin to help make a museum together at the Amuseum Naturalis March volunteer day. Volunteers of all ages can lend a hand this Saturday, March 23rd from 9am-noon and then enjoy lunch together right after.

“All are welcome, and anyone can help,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’ll be working on the museum and gardens, and starting new seedlings to give away at our free plant stand. It’s always a lot of fun and a great chance to meet other people who love local heritage, plants and wildlife.”

Amuseum Naturalis is St. Martin’s free museum of nature and heritage.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum of St. Martin’s nature and heritage, located at the historic Old House in French Quarter. Phase One of the Amuseum has been open since July 2018. It includes an exhibit hall, a botanic walk, several stunning viewpoints and gardens for bush tea and traditional crops. 

In 2018, over 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum.

“If you love plants, you’ll definitely want to come on Saturday,” said Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “We gave away over 300 plants in the last few weeks, so we’ll be working to rebuild our stock of native trees and plants, and other plants traditionally grown on St. Martin. Be sure to save us the seeds from the next soursop or sugar apple you eat. We can also reuse your plastic yogurt containers as pots for seedlings.”

Amuseum Naturalis is an all-volunteer project. Over the last year, more than 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum. Since opening, the Amuseum has welcomed over 3,000 visitors, including over 1,500 local students.

Plastic yogurt containers make great pots for seedlings.

The March volunteer event is 9am-noon on Saturday, March 23rd at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, on the hill above Le Galion beach. The public is also invited to visit the Amuseum during regular opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday 9am to noon. Admission is always free, and free school and youth group visits are also offered. For more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Citizens of Change Project Celebrates St. Martiners Who Made a Difference

Citizens of Change is a project celebrating ordinary people who made a difference on St. Martin.

Citizens of Change is a new project to celebrate St. Martiners who have made a difference on the island. The public is invited to nominate people they would like to recognize. The stories of their work will be featured in an exhibit at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, and also online. The Les Fruits de Mer association and Be the Change Foundation are partners in this project.

“Amuseum Naturalis is a place to share all the stories of St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Citizens of Change is an opportunity to share the stories of everyday people who made a difference. It’s also a chance for the community to tell us what they want to see in the Amuseum.”

People are encouraged to nominate anyone, living or dead, who made a difference on St. Martin. Nominations for teachers, writers, artists, builders, farmers, craftsmen, cooks, parents and storytellers are encouraged. By “citizen” we refer to ordinary members of the community, rather than political leaders. Nominees may be of any nationality.

Nominations can be made by email to info@lesfruitsdemer.com, on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page, or in person at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House. Nominations should include the name of the person nominated and a description of their contribution to the island. 

“The success and survival of St. Martin has always depended on ordinary people making a difference,” said Be the Change Foundation Director Melanie Choisy. “Our organization is dedicated to the kind of giving, sharing and volunteering that is part of St. Martin culture. We’re excited to support a project that celebrates this spirit and the people who embody it.”

The Citizens of Change project is the Be the Change featured project for March. Donations made to the foundation this month will fund the creation of this exhibit. Donations can be made online at https://bethechangesxm.com

Get Free Native Plants for Your Backyard at Amuseum Naturalis

Get free native plants at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.

Anyone looking to add some green to their yard or neighborhood can get free plants at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. The free plant stand is located just in front of the Amuseum, and is stocked with an assortment of native plants and trees. The plants are provided by the Les Fruits de Mer association.

“Native plants are great for native animals, and after the destruction of Hurricane Irma, we still need to replace plants that were lost,” said Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “St. Martin is the most densely-populated island in the Caribbean, so there is not a lot of open space. Adding native plants around our homes can help make up for a lack of wild spaces.”

Native plants help local birds and other native animals.

Les Fruits de Mer’s native plants nursery is one of several plant projects at Amuseum Naturalis. Promoting native plants helps local species and hopefully reduces demand for imported plants, which may arrive with unwanted pests. The project is funded by donations and a grant from BirdsCaribbean’s Hurricane Relief Fund. This fund has provided support for birds and nature on islands impacted by the hurricanes of 2017.

Other plant projects at Amuseum Naturalis include a native plant trail, a bush tea and bush medicine garden, and plantings of traditional food crops. Amuseum visitors are invited to learn all about plants and plant use on St. Martin. They are also welcome to share knowledge about plants and how they are used. The association will also give away seedlings of heritage plants used in bush teas.

“Please come by and pick up some free plants,” invited Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You can also visit the Amuseum for free while you are there! And please continue to share what you know about local plants and how they are used, so this knowledge can be passed on to future generations.”

The free plant stand was built from reclaimed materials by Waste2Work.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum sharing all that is special about St. Martin. It is open 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday, and is located at The Old House on the hill above Le Galion beach in French Quarter. The free plant stand is in front of the Amuseum and accessible at all times.

Help Create a Museum About St. Martin Nature and Heritage on Sunday

In 2018, over 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum.

Local association Les Fruits de Mer invites everyone on St. Martin to help make a museum together this Sunday, at the Amuseum Naturalis February volunteer day. Volunteers of all ages can lend a hand on Sunday, February 3rd from 3-5pm and then enjoy refreshments together right after.

“All are welcome, and anyone can help,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You can help out in the bush tea garden, install new exhibit panels, plant some seedlings, or share your local knowledge. The Amuseum is a place to tell all the stories of St. Martin, so come add your voice!”

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum of local nature and heritage located at the historic Old House in French Quarter. Phase One of the Amuseum has been open since July 2018. It includes an exhibit hall, a botanic walk, several stunning viewpoints and gardens for bush tea and traditional crops.

Amuseum Naturalis is St. Martin’s free museum of nature and heritage.

The Amuseum is an all-volunteer project. Over the last year, over 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum. Since opening, the Amuseum has welcomed over 3,000 visitors, including over 1,500 local students.

“After watching museums, libraries and other cultural resources close in recent years, or get destroyed by Irma, it’s clear that the need for a museum is stronger than ever,” said Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “It’s also a chance to build something for the island together. We can look beyond the old style approach to history. We can create something more alive and more diverse that reflects the spirit of the people.”

The February volunteer event is 3-5pm on Sunday, February 3rd at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, on the hill above Le Galion beach. The public is also invited to visit the Amuseum during regular opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday 9am to noon. Admission is always free, and free school and youth group visits are also offered. For more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Free BirdSleuth Caribbean Training for Educators This Weekend

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a bird-based education program made for the Caribbean.

On October 20th and 21st, the Les Fruits de Mer association is offering a free training for teachers and others who work with children. The training is for the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. The training and materials are bilingual in English and French. The September BirdSleuth training was fully booked, and many educators from that session are already using the activities.

“Imagine a school class having fun and learning about biology by playing a game of Bird Bingo or Habitat Scavenger Hunt,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re excited to make that possible by offering a free training program for teachers and educators. It can be used in the classroom and outdoors and it was made for the Caribbean.”

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a set of fun lessons and activities that uses birds to teach youth about nature and science. BirdSleuth Caribbean has been specially adapted for the region, so kids learn about the birds and habitats that they can see around them. It’s designed for students 9-13 years old. The program contains lessons, activities and learning games that can be done in the classroom and outdoors.

Binkie van Es teaches a BirdSleuth Caribbean training session.

Les Fruits de Mer will be hosting free training in the BirdSleuth program with instructor Binkie van Es. Participants will enjoy hands-on training and receive materials to bring back to their class or youth group. On each training day, 4-5 different games and activities will be taught.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see kids fall in love with birds and science through the BirdSleuth program,” explained BirdSleuth instructor Binkie van Es. “Birds are the perfect gateway to a love of nature and a passion for learning. The activities are a lot of fun for teachers, too!”

Educators learning BirdSleuth Caribbean explore nature at Amuseum Naturalis.

The bilingual training will be at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House: October 20th and 21st, from 9am-1pm. It is free, and lunch will be served after each training session. If you are interested, please contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to reserve your spot in the free training.

Awesome New Activities for All Ages at Migratory Bird Festival

Everyone got an up-close look at aquatic creatures at the Portable Pond.

Despite the rain, over 150 guests of all ages found fun new ways to learn about birds at the Migratory Bird Festival on Saturday. Created by an all-volunteer team from the Les Fruits de Mer association, this year’s festival took place at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter.

Kids find aquatic creatures in historic boiling coppers. (Photo by Tim CAM)

“This was our sixth Migratory Bird Festival, so we created a lot of new activities to keep it fresh,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You could listen to bird sounds and measure yourself compared to local birds. People loved decorating their own bird tote bags and playing Bird Bingo in the gardens.”

Kids and adults had fun decorating bird tote bags to use instead of plastic bags.

The Migratory Bird Festival celebrates the birds that travel thousands of miles each year to live in St. Martin. They connect this tiny island to the rest of the Americas. The festival also highlights the things these birds need to survive. At the Portable Pond, guests could see aquatic insects and other creatures that many migratory birds eat. The Habitat Scavenger Hunt sent kids looking for food, shelter and other things that birds depend on.

Kids learned about nature by playing BirdSleuth games.

“This was our first Migratory Bird Festival at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House,” commented Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “It was the perfect place, with lots of indoor and outdoor space to explore. Many people from French Quarter came to the festival, and we want to keep building the connection between the town and the Amuseum.”

Guests learned about migratory birds from bird expert Binkie van Es and teacher Jessica Sabas.

The 2018 Migratory Bird Festival was made possible by a team of 20 wonderful volunteers. The festival was free thanks to the support of its sponsors: L’Auberge Gourmand, BZSE, Coalys, Delta Petroleum, ECOFIP, Frigodom, IZI LIGHT, Lagoonies, Pelikaan Brewery, St. Martin’s Sweetness and SXM Logistics. To see highlights from the festival, visit http://lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

MBF 2018: Photos Part 1

The 2018 Migratory Bird Festival was a real blast! There were so many fun things to do, and we were very lucky that the real rain didn’t start until right after the festival. Check out a few photos of the event.

World Migratory Bird Day in St. Martin and the Caribbean

World Migratory Bird Day will be celebrated on 16 Caribbean islands.

The month of October heralds a change in the seasons—even in the Caribbean. The days grow shorter and the fierce heat of the sun lessens. Countless birds journey to the their winter homes on these islands. October also brings World Migratory Bird Day, when Caribbean people celebrate the birds that come here every year.

In the Caribbean, about a third of our 500 bird species are summer or winter visitors. More than 30 events on 16 Caribbean islands are lined up to celebrate these amazing birds. More than 80,000 people will join in the activities, led by Environment for the Americas and BirdsCaribbean.

The Migratory Bird Festival is October 13th at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.

On St. Martin, the Les Fruits de Mer association is hosting the sixth annual Migratory Bird Festival. This year’s event is Saturday, October 13th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. It is free and people of all ages are invited.

The Migratory Bird Festival is a great chance to go birdwatching.

At the Migratory Bird Festival, guests will see birds and learn about the amazing journeys they take each year. There will be bird-themed arts and crafts, and fun games like Bird Bingo. Guests can also explore Amuseum Naturalis and enjoy its gardens and scenic viewpoints.

The 2018 theme for World Migratory Bird Day in the Caribbean is “Year of the Bird.” It is a chance to look at issues facing birds. On St. Martin, pollution and debris impact many places where birds live. It is also a chance to take action. Planting native trees to replace the ones lost to Hurricane Irma can help birds.

“Last October, we weren’t able to celebrate WMBD,” says Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean Lisa Sorenson. “Hurricanes Irma and Maria had just hit several islands with great force, and many of our partners were in shock. Now we are moving forward now with great hope as migratory birds return to our shores.”

Birds like the Whimbrel travel thousands of miles to spend their winter on St. Martin and other Caribbean islands.

Visit migratorybirdday.org or birdscaribbean.org to learn more about celebrations all over the Caribbean. For more information about the Migratory Bird Festival at Amuseum Naturalis in St. Martin, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Les Fruits de Mer Highlights Heritage to Boost Local Education

Students have fun learning about St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis.

Les Fruits de Mer is launching new initiatives to help teachers and young people. The non-profit association has provided education about St. Martin wildlife and heritage for the last five years. Since Hurricane Irma, that mission has become even more important. While schools on both sides of the island work to build back their staff and facilities, Les Fruits de Mer is helping with new ways to provide education focused on St. Martin.

“The first phase of Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is open,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It’s a great place to learn about the nature, history and culture of St. Martin. We’ve already been getting lots of visits from school classes, youth groups and families.”

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum created by Les Fruits de Mer and located in French Quarter. Right now, the Amuseum features eight exhibits on local natural and cultural heritage. There’s also a botanic walk with native plant signage, a bush tea garden, plots of traditional food plants, and special panels about the historical site and its features. Games and activities in English and French help students of all ages discover and learn. Classes and youth groups can book free visits to the museum.

Binkie van Es leads the first session of free BirdSleuth teacher training at Amuseum Naturalis last Saturday.

The Amuseum is also hosting free bilingual teacher trainings for the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. The program includes fun lessons, games and activities made for the Caribbean. BirdSleuth uses local birds to help kids connect with nature and learn science and problem-solving skills. Training at the Amuseum will empower dozens of schools and youth groups on both sides of the island with this program. 

“We love helping people discover what is special about St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “That could happen at a visit to the Amuseum or a BirdSleuth activity in your school. We also share everything we do for free online, including books and movies. Interviews we’ve filmed with St. Martiners reveal a lot in just a few minutes. They’re a great way to connect with local culture and history in the classroom or just watching on your phone.”

Delphine David shares stories about her life in an interview filmed by Les Fruits de Mer.

The fall hours of Amuseum Naturalis are 9am-noon Tuesday to Saturday. The next free BirdSleuth teacher trainings are scheduled for October 20-21. Contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to participate in the trainings or to schedule a free school visit. Short films, presentations, books, and art activities focused on local nature, culture and history are available for free download on www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Free BirdSleuth Caribbean Training Offered to Teachers and Youth Group Leaders

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a bird-based education program made for the Caribbean.

Everyone loves birds. They are majestic and inspiring. They are dedicated parents. Their sweet songs fill the air with life. They’re also a great way to learn about nature and science.

“Imagine a school class having fun and learning about biology by playing a game of Bird Bingo or Habitat Scavenger Hunt,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re excited to make that possible by offering a free training program for teachers and educators. It can be used in the classroom and outdoors and it was made for the Caribbean.”

Binkie van Es leads a BirdSleuth activity at the Endemic Animal Festival. (Photo: Agnes Etchegoyen)

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a set of fun lessons and activities that uses birds to teach youth about nature and science. BirdSleuth Caribbean has been specially adapted for the region, so kids learn about the birds and habitats that they can see around them. It’s designed for students 9-13 years old. The program contains lessons, activities and learning games that can be done in the classroom and outdoors.

Les Fruits de Mer will be hosting free training in the BirdSleuth program with instructor Binkie van Es. Participants will enjoy hands-on training and receive materials to bring back to their class or youth group. On each training day, 4-5 different games and activities will be taught.

Amuseum Naturalis has indoor and outdoor space for BirdSleuth activities.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see kids fall in love with birds and science through the BirdSleuth program,” explained BirdSleuth instructor Binkie van Es. “Birds are the perfect gateway to a love of nature and a passion for learning. The activities are a lot of fun for teachers, too!”

The training will be at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House on two Saturdays: September 22 and Sept 29, from 9am-1pm. It will be bilingual in English and French. It is free, and lunch will be served after each training session. If you are interested, please contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to reserve your spot in the free training.

House of Ages

The Old House has been part of the St. Martin landscape for hundreds of years. The first known record of it is from 1766. The foundations of this house are from this era. In the census of 1772, it was the most valuable estate on the French side. Crops included 2,000 coffee plants, 1,000 banana trees and acres of cotton, potatoes and cassava.  The names of the 49 enslaved people who lived there at the time are unknown, but traces of their lives can still be detected on the site today. They cleared and farmed the land, tended the livestock, constructed stone walls, and built the foundations of this house. 

The Old House.

By 1793, much of the land was used to grow sugar cane. A mill had been built in the valley across the street. Facilities were made to refine sugar and produce vinegar and rum. At this time, the property was owned by members of the Hodge family, originally from Anguilla. By 1816, there were 77 enslaved people on this estate, producing sugar while also raising their own food. The original wooden home was destroyed in the hurricane of 1819 and then rebuilt on the same foundation.

By the late 1830s, the property was in decline and it was considered a “former sugar mill” by 1837. In 1843, the property was acquired by Daniel Beauperthuy, who had the rights to produce salt on the Orient Bay salt pond. In addition to salt production, this estate grew cotton and raised livestock: 70 cattle, 36 mules and 234 sheep. By 1931, the house was again in disrepair. Unable to tear down the strong posts, Louis Emile “Lil’ Dan” Beauperthuy set the remains of the house on fire. He said it burned for about two weeks.

The concrete house you see today was built in 1935 by Adolph Artsen. It remained the residence of the Beauperthuy family for many years, and they continued to manage salt production in Orient Bay until the late 1950s. Pierre Beauperthuy transformed the property into a museum of history and culture in the early 2000s. His charisma and gift for storytelling were key parts of the museum he created here. It was a monument to his love of his island and its history.

Pierre Beauperthuy builds his museum.

In 2018, the Les Fruits de Mer association began restoring this property as a museum of nature, history and culture on St. Martin. Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum dedicated to sharing all the stories of St. Martin. It is also a center for community projects, including a native plants nursery, shared gardens and other collaborative projects. The museum is now open for its fall hours, Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to Noon.

Rediscover St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House

Students enjoy activities during their visit to Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House.

People of all ages are invited to enjoy and explore Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this fall. Organizers have announced the fall hours–the Amuseum will be open from 9am to noon, Tuesday to Saturday, starting September 1st. Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of local nature, history and culture, developed by the Les Fruits de Mer association with an all-volunteer team. It is located at the historic Old House on the hill above Le Galion in French Quarter.

“We had a fantastic summer preview, with over 1,000 visitors in just over a month,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We especially enjoyed the summer camps and school groups that visited during the preview. Now we’re inviting teachers and youth group leaders to schedule fall visits!”

While the process of restoring The Old House continues, the Amuseum has opened its gardens and an exhibit hall featuring eight exhibits. In the back yard, visitors can enjoy amazing views and learn about native trees and plants. A bush tea and bush medicine garden is growing, with many plants donated by St. Martiners who want to share this tradition.

Visitors learn about The Old House and its history dating back to the 1700s.

The Amuseum’s “micro-theater” shows a reel of over a dozen documentary shorts about nature, history and culture. Many of the films feature fascinating interviews with St. Martiners. Les Fruits de Mer members and volunteers have been interviewing St. Martin residents to share the stories of the island as told by its people. The association’s goal is to collaborate with the community so the Amuseum can be a true reflection of the island.

Families are encouraged to visit the Amuseum. Amuseum Hunt! and Amuseum Adventure! are two fun activities created by the association to help students and families interact with the exhibits.

The public is also invited to share their stories during their visits. The Amuseum is ready to film interviews, scan photos or documents and photograph historic items. Volunteers are also welcome. To get involved, just stop by the Amuseum when it is open or email the association at info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

For more information about Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com. Schools and youth groups can schedule group visits by contacting info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Mystery Machines

The backyard of The Old House in French Quarter was overgrown with trees and bushes that had been growing wild for years. On top of that, Hurricane Irma had downed branches and tossed debris everywhere. Volunteers had spent weeks clearing the yard before they finally reached the mystery machine.

The trapped flywheel.

You could almost walk by and miss it. A flywheel sticks out at ground level beside a newly cleared path. A patina of rust covers the iron, and it is similar in color to the dirt and tree bark around it. Further in, another part looks like the bell of a saxophone.

The mouth of the machine.

How long has it been there? Based on the tree trunks that are growing through the machine, it has been there for decades at least. At least some of it is now underground, but we aren’t sure how much.

This mystery machine is a symbol of so much. It tells us of old times and old ways now forgotten. Especially as a group of volunteers gathers around it to make wild guesses about what it was once used for. It tells us of a St. Martin that was the same island, but also a very different one.

It reminds us of the constant struggle to maintain our homes and possessions against the ravages of nature and time. Concrete crumbles, metal rusts and wood is eaten by termites. Nature reclaims her land, inch by inch. The process is constant and effortless.

Surely this machine didn’t come cheap when it was bought. It was forged far away and brought here on a long ocean journey. At a time when there were no cars, refrigerators or big screen televisions, this was surely a major purchase. Yet there it is, grown into the landscape. Once valuable and useful, the world around it changed.

The mystery machine.

We look forward to researching this and other mystery machines from St. Martin’s past. They are not just relics. They were once used by people here. Understanding the purpose of these machines and tools can tell us what people were doing here as they went about their daily lives.

Do you have stories of tools and machines that were used once upon a time on St. Martin? Share them by writing to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Amuseum Naturalis Open House

We had a fantastic time at today’s open house at Amuseum Naturalis. Over 100 people came by to enjoy our summer preview. Guests also brought plants for the bush tea garden. For July and August we will be open from 9am to noon, so please come by to see us! We have 8 fascinating exhibits right now. You can also watch our films in our micro-theater and enjoy seeing the historic house and grounds. As always, admission to the Amuseum is free!

Amuseum Naturalis Open House

People of all ages are invited to visit Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this Sunday from 9am to noon. St. Martin’s free museum of nature, history and culture is celebrating the launch of its summer preview with an open house event.

Amuseum Naturalis is a museum dedicated to sharing all that is unique about St. Martin. It was developed by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer. During 2016 and 2017, it was located in Grand Case. The association is relaunching and expanding the Amuseum at the historic Old House in French Quarter.

“Right now, everyone is looking for fun stuff to do—especially parents and kids,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We decided to do a summer preview so people can start enjoying the Amuseum, even while we continue to develop it.”

The summer preview includes an exhibit hall with eight exhibits. Visitors will discover fascinating displays on topics like animals found only on St. Martin, traditional building techniques and the tree with the hardest wood in the world. They can also see projects in progress, like the Amuseum’s bush tea garden.

The open house is Sunday, July 22nd from 9am to noon. Following the open house, the Amuseum will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to noon during July and August. Admission to the Amuseum is free. Schools and youth groups are invited to contact Les Fruits de Mer to arrange a group visit.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is located in French Quarter at the top of the hill above Le Galion. For a map and more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Volunteers and Donors Support Amuseum Naturalis Relaunch

Over 80 volunteers have helped out at the Amuseum this year.

This year, non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer is working on an ambitious project to relaunch their free museum, Amuseum Naturalis. The Amuseum’s new home is the site of the former Old House museum between French Quarter and Orient Bay. In addition to exhibits about nature, the new museum will feature local heritage and culture.

“This is a huge project for us, but we have had an amazing amount of support,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Over 100 donors contributed to our fundraiser last month, raising over $11,000 for the project. And over 80 people have already come out to volunteer at the site. This support makes the project possible, and also shows that people want a museum for the community and want to be part of making it happen.”

For Les Fruits de Mer, the current volunteer work is just the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with the community to make the museum an active space. The association is developing community projects—like gardens and a free nursery for native trees. They also want to create exhibits with community members who have stories to share.

“Our goal is to create a space where people can share the stories of St. Martin in many ways—exhibits, videos and live events,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “We can record the stories and develop exhibits, but the stories have to come from the people of St. Martin. Everyone has a story.”

Volunteers are invited to help work on the museum from 8am to 11am on Sunday, April 8th. There will be an idea box for volunteers to submit ideas about what they’d like to see featured in the Amuseum. Volunteers can also suggest plants that should be grown in the museum’s bush tea garden. For more information visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook

Amuseum Updates!

The relaunch of Amuseum Naturalis has been progressing in many ways. Our volunteer days have been getting more and more busy with loads of people coming out to help. Luckily, we have plenty of work to do! Here’s a short video from Saturday:

Our next clean-up is Saturday, March 24th from 9am to noon with a BBQ after. Please come by! You can also invite friends via Facebook.

We’ve also been going gangbusters on our March fundraising campaign. In the first week, we raised over $8,000 from 69 generous donors. This campaign continues through March 30th, so please join us! Or send an email to someone who might want to help—it works! 91% of the people that donated recevied an email from someone about the project. Click here to see the project page, learn more and donate!

Caribbean Curiosities: Having it Both Ways

All of the creatures that have found lasting success on St. Martin have some kind of adaptation that makes them suited to life here. Freshwater species have more challenges than most, and the Apple Snail is well equipped to deal with them.

The Apple Snail is well-adapted to St. Martin.

The Apple Snail is a large snail that lives in freshwater habitats. Members of their family live in Africa, Asia and the Americas, so scientists believe they date back to a time when all the continents were joined together. In this hemisphere, most species are native to South America, with a few found just in the Caribbean.

Many of the adaptations of the Apple Snail allow it to survive dry seasons, which happen each year in many tropical areas. Like many snails, they have an operculum—a door to their shell. They can seal it if the pond or stream they live in goes dry. They enter a state known as estivation, resting dormant until rains return.

The Apple Snail is also somewhat amphibious. They have a gill for breathing underwater, and a lung for breathing air. The ability to breathe air allows them to leave the water, at least temporarily, to feed. In stagnant water, they can use the lung to get additional oxygen from the air. They even have a special snorkel that they can extend to breathe air while they are still underwater.

A snorkel starts to reach up for air.

Another benefit of their amphibious nature is the ability to protect their eggs. These snails leave the water, and lay a cluster of eggs above the water line. This protects the eggs from fish and other potential predators.

This variety of adaptations has made the Apple Snail quite successful. They have also made it an unwanted pest in places where it has been introduced accidentally or on purpose. One species—brought to Taiwan as a potential food—ended up seriously harming rice production. Its ability to leave the water to feed makes it a pest for other crops as well.

On St. Martin, this snail can be found in many of the small streams and drainage ditches in Concordia, often using its lung to traverse extremely shallow areas. Plants along the banks of these streams hold egg clusters, looking like pale, misshapen raspberries. The next time you are in the area, keep an eye out for these remarkable snails.

Caribbean Curiosities: Between Worlds

We are all familiar with the salmon’s journey. From the ocean, it enters rivers and makes a miraculous journey upstream to spawn and then die. In the Caribbean, there are many animals that find a life between the land and sea, and a home in fresh and salty waters.

On St. Martin, one is never far from the sea. Most obviously, we find it at the edge of every beach and at the bottom of each seaside cliff. But the sea also has ways of invading the island itself.

The sea seeps into the land through the porous limestone, adding its salty essence to well water. It washes upstream in the few spots where fresh water running down a gut reaches the sea. And, of course, salty water from the sea fills many of our salt ponds.

The Crested Goby lives on the edge.

These brackish waters—neither part of the sea, nor totally separate from it—are a rich and unique habitat. The creatures that live here must adapt to the changing conditions of this zone: a rainstorm pushing the balance towards freshness, a dry spell pushing it to salty.

For some, life between two worlds is just a passing phase. Many juvenile fish use brackish mangrove wetlands as a nursery. In the shallow water, sheltered in mangrove roots, they find a safe place to grow. They then swim out to the coral reef to live. Some freshwater species—like the Mountain Mullet and many freshwater shrimp—float in the sea as eggs. After hatching they travel with the current, then swim into fresh water to mature.

Fish like the Crested Goby spend a lifetime on the borderline. They often live around mangroves, digging out a hollow in the sand or finding a root-sheltered hiding spot. They also live in estuaries where streams and rivers empty into the sea. Unlike most fish, they can live perfectly fresh water, pure seawater and anything in-between.

The Crested Goby is also flexible when it comes to food. Algae is on the menu, but so are crabs, insects, snails and even small fish. It is an integral part of the wetland community that captures nutrients washed down from the island. It plays a part in keeping the seas both clean and full of life.

The adaptable Crested Goby has found a niche that allows it to occupy the cracks and crevices between two worlds. In doing so, it has also turned its back on life in the open ocean. It is a creature of the sea, tied forever to the edge of the land.

Hundreds Enjoy Local Wildlife at Endemic Animal Festival

Endemic Animal Festival guests enjoyed painting bird feeders made from local calabash and recycled fishing line. Photo by Tim Cam.

Hundreds of guests from St. Martin and beyond learned about local wildlife at the fourth annual Endemic Animal Festival on Sunday. The event, held at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case, featured animals found nowhere else in the world and a variety of activities for young and old. Created by the Les Fruits de Mer association, the festival is free and takes place each April.

“Getting to know the animals that live only on St. Martin is a fundamental part of understanding the island,” explained Mark Yokoyama, co-founder of Les Fruits de Mer. “The Endemic Animal Festival is one of our most important initiatives because it is a truly authentic, only on St. Martin experience.”

The Endemic Animal Discovery Station featured species found only on St. Martin and nowhere else in the world. Photo by Claire Affagard.

This year’s festival included a variety of fun ways to celebrate and explore island wildlife. The Endemic Animal Discovery Station showcased two species of lizard and one insect that are found only on St. Martin, as well as other species that live on only a few islands. Local wildlife experts were on hand to talk about the animals and answer questions. Guests painted bird feeders made from calabash and took home seedlings of the Gaïac, an endangered native tree.

“Hosting the festival at Amuseum Naturalis was a great addition to the event this year,” added Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer. “Guests were able to enjoy over a dozen exhibits about local nature and our program of short nature documentaries in addition to the festival activities. If you haven’t been to the Amuseum yet, we’re open for two more days this season: April 28th and May 2nd from 4-8pm at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. It’s free to visit.”

The Endemic Animal Festival was made possible by the generous support of its sponsors: BirdsCaribbean, Caribbean Paddling, Delta Petroleum, Hotel L’Esplanade, IGY Marinas, Lagoonies Bistro & Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, Rain Forest Adventures, The Scuba Shop, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Tri-Sport. For more information, and to see photos from the event, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Festival attendees received a free seedling of the Gaïac, an endangered native tree. Photo by Claire Affagard.