Education: Student Wetland Nurseries
Our Student Wetland Nurseries Work
Wetlands were once considered dark, damp and sometimes spooky places. We now know that they are rich, productive and beautiful places. More than 70 percent of the rare or threatened plant and animal species in North Carolina depend on wetlands for survival. Wetlands protect coastal water quality by absorbing rainfall, recharging groundwater and filtering pollutants from runoff. They hold back floodwaters, reduce storm surges and lessen erosion, protecting property from hurricanes and storms.
Recognizing these vital functions, the federation’s Student Wetland Nursery Program give students a chance to experience these wetland wonders and take an active role in their restoration. An idea originally implemented in Florida by Tampa Bay Watch, the Student Wetland Nursery Program was adapted by the federation for North Carolina’s climate and standard course of study in its schools.
While participating in this program, students learn about wetlands and water quality through hands-on activities, build wetland nurseries at their schools, cultivate wetland plants from seed, and then use the plants to restore coastal shorelines in their communities. Over 200 students from at least seven schools are involved each year in the program. They have successfully replanted seven acres of marshland with over 62,000 marsh plants.
Thanks to Restore America's Estuaries, the Captain Planet Foundation, the Carlson Family Foundation, North Carolina Sea Grant and SeaWorld/Busch Gardens for supporting the program.
- August: Workshops are held in participating schools for teachers. These workshops include an introduction to the program, offer a timeline for lessons during the school year and provide an overview of the classroom curriculum taught by the federation’s educators.
- September-October: First classroom lesson is conducted. Topics include salt marsh ecology and the importance of its key plant, Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass.
- November-December: Nursery is built on school property or maintenance is conducted on existing nurseries. Under the guidance of the federation’s education staff, students actively participate in building and maintaining of the 16' x 16' nurseries.
- January: Second classroom lesson on cordgrass is conducted, and the students set up their seed germination experiments. Using hypotheses to determine whether different seed storage techniques are effective in replicating natural dormancy and germination Federation staff meets with students monthly and brings additional plants for their nurseries, which the students eventually will use for restoration site plantings.
- May: Students transport all plants to a site selected by the federation for restoration. Student participation in the full day includes planting grasses and conducting water quality, biological and physical monitoring activities. This data establishes the baseline from which federation staff will evaluate the success of the project.
Ten schools along the coast participate in the program: Arapahoe Charter School
in Pamlico County, Beaufort Middle School, Broad Creek Middle School
, Newport Middle School
and Smyrna Elementary School
in Carteret County, Friends School
of Wilmington, Pamlico County High School
, Roland-Grise Middle School
in Wilmington, First Flight Middle School
in Dare County and Ocracoke School in Hyde County.
If you are interested in learning more about the federation educational opportunities for students, please contact our Coastal Education Coordinators in any of our regions:
- Northeast (Manteo): Sara Hallas at 252-473-1607 [ email ]
- Central (Ocean): Sarah Phillips at 252-393-8185 [ email ]
- Southeast (Wilmington): Ted Wilgis at 910-509-2838 [ email ]