EGRET Fellows teachers gathered at the coast during the weekend of March 12-13, to learn about barrier islands and sound ecosystems in North Carolina, as the culminating event for a year-long professional development program. Nine participants, all 5th grade teachers, met at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) on Saturday morning, to try their hand at identifying the many inlets, islands, sounds and rivers in the NC Coastal Plain with NC Sea Grant’s Coastal Education Specialist, Terri Kirby Hathaway. They also explored the flora and fauna of the coast with several activities based on Hathaway’s new book, North Carolina’s Amazing Coast. Participants were also excited to learn from Sara Hallas, with the NC Coastal Federation, how rain gardens can be installed as outdoor classroom areas on school grounds and spent time comparing and contrasting ecosystems in Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve and along the beachfront at Jennette’s Pier.
The second day of the retreat found participants diving into weather-related citizen science projects such as mPing, CoCoRaHS, and S’COOL with the NC Museum of Natural Science’s Citizen Science Coordinator, Chris Goforth. This topic was of particular interest to this group as weather is an important part of the 5th grade science curriculum. Teachers need field experiences too, and CSI’s K-12 Education Specialist, David Sybert, generously took our group out to look for life in and around the sound. We saw an abundance of winter waterfowl, tried our hand at seining – caught a flounder! – and even had a rare marine mammal sighting in the form of a Harbor seal sunning itself on a small island.
What a weekend! Thanks to all of our partners for sharing their expertise with our teachers, providing them an event full of classroom-ready and field-oriented experiences to bring back to their classrooms! This experience could not have happened without generous funding from the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, in support of the EGRET Fellows Program.