Expanding the classroom to Masonboro

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lumina News file photo 

Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Camp educator Emily Rossi discusses the variety of different shells found on Masonboro Island with fifth graders from Wrightsville Beach School during Masonboro.org’s pilot trip to the island on Oct. 22, 2013. 

For many who live around Wrightsville Beach, Masonboro Island is a common weekend destination during the summer months. 

But for children attending downtown Wilmington schools, a trip to the uninhabited island could be a life-changing event.

That is the impact nonprofit organization Masonboro.org is hoping to bring to the hundreds of students attending New Hanover County Schools by sponsoring field trips to the island at no cost to the students. 

On Oct. 22, Masonboro.org and Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours conducted a pilot trip to Masonboro Island with Wrightsville Beach School fifth graders. 

Masonboro Island Reserve Local Action Committee member and Masonboro.org board member Haywood Newkirk said that trip’s success inspired the organization to take it further.

“How cool would it be if every kid that went through the county schools at one point was taken to Masonboro for a field trip,” Newkirk said. “It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

After a meeting with Dr. LaChawn Smith, New Hanover County Schools director of instructional services, Newkirk learned the program would begin with fifth graders from Gregory Elementary and Sunset Park Elementary.

“I have heard from other folks who have worked with fifth-grade students on the island and have done some similar things in the past and they are very excited,” Smith said. “I am really looking forward to this. I think it would be excellent if it is something we could bring to scale to the whole district.”

Before the field trip, which Newkirk said would occur sometime in late April or early May, the teachers at Gregory and Sunset Park will be trained on the curriculum that will be covered on the students’ trip. Educators from the North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program will lead the teachers’ instruction and each teacher will receive credit for his or her training. 

“We thought we were kind of inventing the wheel with this field trip idea but [the coastal reserve educators] were already doing this up around Morehead City,” Newkirk said. “Prior to the students going on the field trip, they will have in-class instruction from their teachers, and then we will take them on the field trip and then a day after they will have more instruction about what they saw.”

Smith said the principals at Gregory and Sunset Park have already agreed to the field trips, and that going to Masonboro Island could be an experience not afforded to many of the students at those schools. 

“I am confident that for the majority of students this will be a new experience, and will be one that they find very engaging and applicable to the content in their science curriculum,” she said. “Kids thrive in a hands-on environment, and I don’t think you can get much more hands on than actually being on Masonboro Island.”

email cole@luminanews.com    

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