Over 200 sixth grade students from First Flight Middle School embarked on a day-long field trip to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The day was spent entirely outside, where the students were immersed in hands-on learning while exploring several habitats. Science teacher Liv Cook commented, “ We live in such a naturally beautiful place; this trip was such a gift.  The park rangers, scientists and variety of educators were all there to engage us in some awesome, hands-on, interactive learning stations!  We hiked, we planted, we ran, jumped, and rolled, and just had a great time while also learning so much.”

A number of different, hands-on learning stations were set up for the students to rotate through over the course of the day. The students climbed the sand dune to get to the federation’s living shoreline project along the Roanoke Sound; explored marshes to find live evidence that the estuary is indeed the nursery of the sea; planted salt marsh cord grass along a section of the shoreline; and analyzed the water quality, to gauge the health of the ecosystem.

Park Rangers led the students on an interactive simulation based on essential habitat needs for the state reptile, the eastern box turtle. The students learned to plot latitude and longitude coordinates on a map, and why stewardship is such an important factor in keeping our natural systems in balance and what they can do to make a positive impact.

This was the second time this group of students participated in a field trip to Jockey’s Ridge State Park with the federation. The students’ knowledge will be evaluated to assess the value and success of this approach to environmental education, though in our opinion, we accomplished our goal of inspiring these young minds to become environmental stewards.