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INSIDE THIS SECTION:
? Sports, Pages 9-11
? Pageant slated, 7 2
COUNTING the plants in a square meter of shoreline helps the students understand the amazing number of organisms that populate a salt
marsh. Tallying this sample are Cedric Daniels (left) and Pay ton Leggett.
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c pass acres of salt marsh every time
we drive over a bridge or motor up our
rivers and waterways. We walk hur
riedly past all manner of spindly little bushes and
windblown grasses in our rush to find the perfect
spot for a beach towel.
But how often do we actually SEE what's go
ing on in our coastal environment?
Not often enough for Ellen Milligan and Jill
Hughes, two teachers of science and math at
Waccamaw School. They wanted their eighth
grade students to take a closer look at the diverse
coastal ecosystems located just a few miles down
So they developed an ambitious curriculum of
preliminary class work, field observations, speci
men gathering, data collection and follow-up
analysis to organize an expedition that would be
more than just a fun day at the beach.
They applied for and received a grant through
the local school system that would pay for substi
tute teachers to cover their absence and a salt-wa
ter aquarium to display some of their student's
finds. Then they piled into a bus and headed for
Ocean Isle Beach.
"A lot of these kids had never (tone anything at
the beach except swim in the ocean and piay
video games at the pavilion," Milligan said.
Last month, in the first of two field trips, the
students concentrated on the ocean bcach. They
located and cataloged the unique plants that sur
vive in the harsh sand dune environment. They
identified sea oats, salt meadow cordgrass, wax
myrtle, dune primrose, sea rocket, pennywort and
bcach elder. They took water and soil samples,
drew diagrams of observed organisms and col
lected shells, bones, egg casings and other items.
Last week they embarked again, this time to a
salt marsh along the Intracoastal Waterway. With
the help of N.C. Wildlife Officer Fred Taylor, the
students turned over rocks, sifted through sand
and tossed nets into tidal pools to uncover and
capture live specimens.
Among their finds were shrimp, worms, clams,
blue crabs, fiddler crabs, hermit crabs, rock crabs,
periwinkles, jellyfish, a sea cucumber and juve
nile toad fish, spot and bluefish.
To estimate how many organisms live in the
marsh ecosystem, groups of students placed hula
hoops over randomly selected areas and counted
the number of plants growing in each square me
ter. Then they established an average number for
the recorded counts and used it to extrapolate the
population of larger areas. The students estimated
that more than 2,00() plants could be found in 12
square meters of marsh.
Back in the classroom, the students transferred
their living specimens to the aquarium, which has
been set up in the library for the entire school to
enjoy. Other finds were preserved in alcohol for
later study. Collected data was used to compute
an estimated population study of the observed
area. Each student wrote a report on what they
hai* learned, discussing the interrelated food
chains within the coastal ecosystem and impor
tance of protecting it.
"It was a beautiful teaching tool for integrating
several study areas," Milligan said.
In addition to the obvious scientific value, the
program also helped the students apply their
mathematics knowledge as they computed their
data, she said. They used reading skills in their
preliminary research, communications techniques
in reporting on their findings, computer training
in preparing the reports and social studies in dis
cussing the economic and political pressures on
the coastal environment.
"It was very worthwhile," said Hughes. "I hope
we can do it every year."
Nft .. M
CRUISING to another spot,
Chris Wright and Tomeka
Walker (in photo at right) learn
that the next ecosystem is often
as close as the next bend in the
EXAMINING the contents of a dip net that Wildlife Officer Fred
Taylor (left) has just used to scoop up specimens, Brandon Hartley
reaches for a small fish as Terry Butler looks on.
, . 14 .A V ? /
CASTING a net into a tidal pool, luimar Jones attempts to capture
a few shrimp for the school aquarium.
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? - V
SPOTTING a new find, Anthony Curl directs his team's attention to another crab species that will he WII.DIJFE OFFICER Fred Taylor enjoys a laugh with Assistant Principal Terry Chestnutt (left, over
added to their specimen inventory. With him are Melissa Daniels (left) and Shaun Milliken. a jellyfish found hy one of the students. Also pictured are Kelly Tripp and Chris Wright.