Students become island explorers


As each of the fifth graders from Sunset Park Elementary School hopped off the bus and on to the parking lot at the Wrightsville Beach MarineMax marina Wednesday, April 23, a look of excitement flashed across their faces.

The students were about to become island explorers on a field trip funded by that transported the students to the uninhabited Masonboro Island for a day of learning about its ecosystems and wildlife.

Just before boarding the Shamrock from Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours,
vice president Haywood Newkirk asked how many of the students had been on the island, on a boat or even to the beach. Most, but not all, said they had been on a beach, less than half had been on a boat and only a couple said they had been on Masonboro Island.

Once they set foot on the island, the students were greeted by the three North Carolina Coastal Reserve educators who led them in activities like a tour of the island’s various ecosystems, bird watching, measuring water pH levels, studying organisms and dipping their feet in the shallows of Masonboro Channel in between.

While studying the shells and animals commonly found on the island, first time Masonboro visitor Abby Stevens said she was already hoping to come back to go swimming.

Stevens’ partner in the activity, Marissa Murphy, was one of the few students who had been to Masonboro before and found something familiar when searching for native plants.

“I found some sourgrass,” Murphy said. “I like it, I like to eat it because it is very sour.”

Each of the students rotated through three different educational programs taking them from sound side to beach side, including Elijah Gamble who was aided by a beach wheelchair and some manpower provided by Sunset Park physical education teacher Micah Hendrix.

“I liked the boat ride and I like exploring,” Gamble said. “I heard that if you put a shell to your ear you can hear the ocean.”

Taking the shell given to him by his partner, Emily Yanez, Gamble heard the ocean.

Maggie Geck, an AmeriCorps member and one of the coastal reserve educators, said it was her first time doing anything like this.

“The kids have all been reacting really well to the material and are very interested,” Geck said.

A few hours later it was time to return to the mainland and the group responded with a resounding yes when asked if they had fun on their trip. Their teachers, like Bridget Tucker, said they almost had as much fun as the kids.

“It was the perfect curriculum and a perfect day,” Tucker said. “I think to say they enjoyed it is an understatement; they loved it. It was honestly the best field trip I’ve been on, probably the best one they have been on.”

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