Out and About on Ocracoke
Left to right, Tamara Carson, Joan Carter and Laura Greenhalgh examine a blue crab molt.
Left to right, JoeLe Weaver, Elaine Ferguson and NCCAT leader Peter Julius plant marsh grass in the rain at Springer's Point.
Elizabeth Hanrahan, left, teaches visitors about estuaries and how to "read" a beach.
The federation has developed a strong community partnership with the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching, or NCCAT, in Ocracoke, a professional development center for N.C. teachers. NCCAT provides a year-round curriculum of intensive cross-disciplinary seminars in the sciences, arts, humanities, technology, leadership, communication and health and wellness. It is a place where teachers “advance teaching as an art and a profession” through a wide range of experiential study and learning opportunities.
Staff from the northeast office regularly lead sessions during many of the ecology focused seminars, getting the participating teachers involved in the federation’s shoreline projects. The teachers then reflect on this coastal experience and incorporate their acquired knowledge and understanding into their classroom teaching.
The federation was involved with a seminar in July titled “In the Kingdom of the Tides.” The seminar participants were engaged through indoor and outdoor activities, including logging volunteer time to help with the vegetation monitoring of the living shoreline at NCCAT. Many of these participants reside inland and this was their first time taking such a close look at these coastal habitats.
In August, federation staff led similar activities for different participants as part of a renewal seminar, “The Ecology of the Outer Banks.” This time the outdoor experience was scheduled for the living shoreline at Springer’s Point Nature Preserve, which is owned and managed by the N.C. Land Trust. We had 1,200 salt marsh cord grass plugs on hand for planting on the shoreline, which we had scheduled for low tide in order to access the necessary areas. Unfortunately we were faced with a light, but steady rain that morning. We were worried that the weather would discourage the teachers from coming outside, having to get more than just their feet wet, but their reaction was quite the opposite. The light rain seemed to rejuvenate them. They excitedly dove right in, without complaint or hesitation, planting all of the plugs in record time.
Also out and about was volunteer Elizabeth Hanrahan who is leading weekly public programs at the Outdoor Classroom at NCCAT this summer. The Ocracoke Foundation asked Elizabeth to lead these programs as a way to develop awareness and appreciation of the unique habitats on Ocracoke Island. Elizabeth is a retired school teacher, with 27 years of experience, and has a contagious enthusiasm as she describes the importance of estuaries. She’s been covering a variety of coastal topics during these free sessions from wetland metaphors to how to “read” a N.C. beach. Elizabeth has two more programs scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 20 and Aug. 27. We’re so glad she’s been volunteering her time all summer long using one of the federation’s living shorelines to educate visitors and residents about this unique environment.
-- Sara Hallas , coastal education coordinator