The sun beats down on four women as they thread their way through sand dunes carrying supplies that must last the entire day.
They stop to watch in silence as a great white egret gracefully unfurls its impressive 50-inch wing span, rising above the marsh grasses. Upon reaching a pool, these explorers carefully wade through the rising waters of the estuary, netting shrimp and fish.
After counting and identifying their catch, they move on toward the beach. They, with hopes of finding interesting creatures hiding among the crevices, scramble over ragged, sea grass-covered rocks as the surf crashes over their feet.
It sounds like scenes from television’s "Survivor," but these are images from a recent professional field trip taken by the students enrolled in Campbell University’s Secondary and Middle Grades Science Methods class, SCIED 453.
Four future educators - Sara Lisenbee, Courtney Phillips, Samantha Ledbetter and Megan Gralton - traveled with course instructor Dr. Mary Ellen Durham to Fort Fisher this fall to work directly with the naturalists and educational specialists assigned to the North Carolina Aquarium. The seniors engaged in several educational and scientific investigations designed to expand their science content knowledge and instructional skills.
Under the guidance of the wetland naturalists, the Campbell students spent several hours exploring the salt water marsh collecting and identifying fish, invertebrates and mollusks. They also surveyed the area to identify plant species commonly found in the estuary and examined the interaction of weather, temperature, salinity, winds and water to determine the impact these factors have on the plant and animal populations found in the marsh.
It was more than an environmental study conducted in a beautiful setting. These future teachers were actually participating in one of the outdoor explorations designed by the Aquarium staff for middle school students. Expanding their personal expertise and teaching skills, the young women examined a variety of instructional techniques and piloted lessons designed to promote critical thinking and scientific literacy among adolescent learners. In addition to the outdoor explorations in the salt marsh and beachside, the seniors interacted with aquarium personnel and explored the operational and managerial components of the aquarium.
The four visited the aquarium’s “nurseries” and learned how many of the species on exhibit are propagated and maintained. Among their favorites were the seahorses, jelly fish and sharks. They learned the procedures for creating salt water, cleaning tanks, tending to sick animals, building realistic and educational displays, preparing food and feeding the animals. The studnets also took advantage of their visit to study several unique animals that are often not on public display, such as octopi, moray eels, anemones and endangered amphibians and reptiles.
After a full day immersed in environmental education, the group returned to campus. Tired and slightly sun burned, each described the trip as exciting and professionally rewarding. Equipped with newly developed instructional skills and networked with some of North Carolina’s strongest environmental researchers, the future teachers say they are eager to implement lessons that include environmental concepts within their classroom practice.
Report courtesy of the School of Education
Photo courtesy of Samantha Ledbetter