On Sunday, May 12, ninth grade biology teacher Mary Alexander and several chaperones headed to S.C. with 82 Wesleyan students for the experience of a lifetime.
First on the agenda for Monday was a service project in coordination with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on James Island. Throughout the morning, Wesleyan students placed 350 netted bags of oyster shells in the water, creating about 120 feet of oyster reef, and saving approximately 262,000 oysters!!
Why an oyster reef? For starters, a single oyster can filter up to 2.5 gallons of water an hour, naturally improving water quality. Oyster reefs also promote healthy coastal environments in multiple ways, including providing shelter and a meal for many coastal creatures while reducing erosion and protecting the coast.
Next stop was Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML). This working lab is a partnership of governmental and academic agencies including NOAA's National Ocean Service and the National Institute of Standards and Technology that is focused on solving the nation's coastal environmental and health-related problems.
During the students' time at HML, scientists set up hands-on activities for the students which were part of one of the many current research initiatives in process. Mrs. Alexander explained, "There was active research going on everywhere. These scientists study coral reefs, viruses that affect marine mammals, and so much more." Ninth grader Brooks Willoughby-Ray said, "We learned about real things...oil spills, coral reefs...it was real life science."
Next, our students headed to the Isle of Palms where they boarded pontoon boats and took an ecotour of the barrier islands. The students learned about the ecology of the S.C. coast, including wildlife, tidal changes, natural disasters, erosion, and local laws and regulations.
Their boat ride ended at Capers Island which is owned by the state of S.C., but is completely uninhabited. Once on the island, each boat group took turns swimming and taking a guided tour of the island. They then wrapped up their very full day with a sunset cookout on the island.
The second day on the trip included a visit to Charleston's famed City Market and a tour of the College of Charleston. With its packed academic schedule, tempered with time for fun, it's no surprise Mrs. Alexander's trip has become an annual tradition at Wesleyan. Ninth grader Lauren Hiatt shared, "The cookout on the beach was so much fun, plus we learned so much more than what we have time to cover in Biology class!"