Eighth grader from Jones Middle School joined the N.C. Coastal Federation on a trip to Bear Island.

Eighth graders from Jones Middle School joined the N.C. Coastal Federation on a trip to Bear Island. For many, it was their first time at Hammocks Beach State Park. As students filed onto the ferry boat, they were full of excitement and curiosity about the day ahead.

 This student just caught a shrimp in the estuary.

This student just caught a shrimp in the estuary.

On the island, they learned about barrier island habitats and wildlife through hands-on activities. One station took students through a series of water quality tests, where they used the scientific method to determine the health of the estuary. Another activity had them knee-deep in brackish water and exploring for aquatic creatures.

This student found a beaded sea star.

This student found a beaded sea star.

The highlight of the day was tagging and releasing several monarch butterflies migrating across the sandy island on that same sunny day in October. Students helped catch the butterflies and tagged them by delicately placing a small identification sticker on one wing. Once a monarch was tagged, it was released back into the sky to continue on its journey, which is sometimes over 2,000 miles! This work benefits the Monarch Watch Program, which is run through the University of Kansas to research monarch migration biology and population dynamics.Exploring the island and the home it creates for coastal organisms made for a fun day of learning. The federation is thankful for the financial support that made this trip possible for the underserved school and students at no cost to them. To help protect coastal habitats and support future education programs such as this, please consider donating to our education program by becoming or renewing your membership.