Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
Zach Gilstrap, left, of the Cape Fear Audubon Society helps Wrightsville Beach School fifth graders from Mrs. Adair’s class spot least terns, oyster catchers and skimmers at the bird sanctuary on the south end of Wrightsville Beach.
In conjunction with Audubon North Carolina, the Harbor Island Garden Club’s official junior club, the Rooty Rascals, met for the last time last Friday, May 3, to celebrate the work and learning experiences they shared over this school year.
About 60 fifth grade students from Wrightsville Beach Elementary School met at the bird sanctuary at the south end of Wrightsville Beach for a beach clean-up and to see firsthand the nesting least terns, black skimmers and oystercatchers they have been learning about.
Led by the marine science coordinator and school counselor Cissie Brooks each year, the school’s two fifth grade classes have been learning about and conducting research projects on shore birds and have created warning signs for the nesting areas that will be posted this year.
The garden club’s Anne Pleasants, coordinator for the Rooty Rascals, said that collaborating with the school and Audubon this year pairs well with the garden club’s mission of beautification and protection of the local environment. Pleasants said that for months the students had been learning about the area birds and protected habitat, and now they could see it.
“Today is the final field trip of this project to see the actual sanctuary, pick up trash and do some beautification … it’s great to see it all come together, but it’s really great for the kids,” she said.
Marlene Eader, volunteer coordinator for Audubon, led the tour last Friday and said that she comes out every Friday morning at 9 a.m. to conduct free tours. It often sparks an ongoing curiosity of science and biology.
“What I see, especially for a fifth grade class, are future biologists, because this type of learning is what gets their interests in sciences and biology, and … if you can get them appreciating the natural world, they’ll want to study it,” she said.
Tiffany Adair was one of the fifth grade teachers guiding her excited students to the beach and said that the experience is invaluable when the kids are able to take the lessons from the classroom and apply them to the outside world.
“It makes it more meaningful, it gives the kids more of a real-world connection … and makes them far more aware of the things they need to be doing to preserve the environment that they like to play in,” she said.
Adair also said that projects like these help create a sense of ownership and appreciation for the students’ coastal community.
“Many of our children leave elementary school with a very strong awareness of marine sciences and life and, hopefully, they’ll continue to learn more as they go onto their careers and higher educations,” she said. “This is a real, live classroom that we have here right now and we’re very fortunate to have a program like this available to us.”