Last week, North Carolina Coastal Federation staff visited Lake Forest Academy in Wilmington to lead some educational activities on the area’s coastal environment with a focus on oysters and their role in estuarine habitats.

Nina Quaratella, AmeriCorps member at the Wrightsville Beach office, led the activities for the day. Jessica Gray, coastal outreach associate, and two interns also helped with the lesson. Students learned more about how oysters filter pollutants and help keep water clean. At a past lesson, students learned about oyster anatomy and did a dissection.

Lake Forest Academy is a nontraditionaI alternative school that is part of New Hanover County Schools. According to its website, the school tries to intervene early to help “students with mental health disabilities, (students who are) are victims of abuse and neglect and students in crisis” whose symptoms “generally manifested in poor behavior resulting in missed instructional time.”

Because of the small environment at the school, students receive more one-on-one instruction and have access to more resources. Students are taught social skills and replacement behaviors needed for effective learning in a traditional classroom, and the school offers a therapeutic component to address students’ psychological needs, according to the website.

“The teachers are all very passionate about what they do, and it really is a great facility,” Quaratella said.

Larry Herrick, a middle grades teacher at the school, said students enjoyed interacting with local marine life and having it brought full circle with their love of eating seafood. Herrick said he thought the lesson made the students more interested in learning how to “protect, sustain and nurture these local environments” compared to before.

“The federation team has helped to educate and connect environmental awareness and sustainability to our students who are North Carolina’s stewards of tomorrow,” he said.

Check out photos from the lesson below. Photos by Larry Herrick.