Guest post by Allie Kreutzer, environmental education coordinator, Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School
Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School (CREECS) is located in McClellanville, S.C. – a historic fishing village nestled between the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Most of our students love to hunt, fish, and boat. Furthermore, a lot of our parents, as fishermen, depend on the environment for their livelihood. Teaching our students to understand and preserve our ecosystems is just a natural extension of learning in this community.
The benefits that the salt marsh ecosystem provides for our community are innumerable.
Oysters filter the water, provide habitat for 85% of local, commercially-important seafood species, provide a natural shoreline buffer from storms and boat wakes, and provide food for animals as well as people. Spartina marshes provide a valuable nursery ground for ecologically and commercially important marine species, a critical resting point for countless species of migrating birds, and the elaborate root system that helps stabilize the shoreline.
Our Champions of the Environment project involves building a “Living Shoreline” at the local boat landing in McClellanville. In conjunction with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource’s Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program, all students from kindergarten through 8th grade will help restore this local salt marsh.
Elementary school students will harvest and germinate Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) seeds, then transplant them along the shoreline.
Middle school students will bag and place oyster shells along the shoreline to attract baby oysters and start a new oyster reef.
We do several different service projects throughout the year but this is probably my favorite one. Though it can be nerve-racking hoping that your seeds sprout and your plants grow, and challenging to keep them watered over breaks, it is well worth the effort.
The Living Shoreline project keeps students engaged all year; from getting muddy harvesting the seeds in the fall, bagging oyster shells and germinating the plants (and creating experiments on how best to grow them) throughout the year, to getting back out in the mud to transplant the grass and oyster shells onto the shoreline.
Next year the students will get to see their efforts come to fruition as they watch the oysters and plants grow. They will also start to see animals that are attracted to the restored habitat.
This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.
About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.