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Burke & Wando Students Visit Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

A Trip Over the Horizon

By: M. Eliese Ronke, MS

October 22, 2014 – How do you get teenagers from two different sides of the economic spectrum to spend a whole day together chatting about everything from the flight patterns of wood storks to the technology of rice plantations?

Take them on a trip Over the Horizon.  A program hosted by Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Over the Horizon brings together students from the Charleston area for a day of diversity— both biological and cultural.  The rich natural and cultural histories of the Lowcountry connect students to their past, present, and future.

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For the third year in a row 15 students from Burke High School in Downtown Charleston and 15 students from Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant shared the experience.  Most students had never been to Cape Romain, never seeing up close the unique habitat right in their backyard.  Over the Horizon provided students not only a new experience but a new perspective on the public lands which they will soon be entrusted to help protect.  Students learned the importance of the surrounding area and the importance of taking ownership of the land and history.

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The day began with a boat ride from Garris Landing to Bulls Island.  Guided through the intercoastal waterway by Chris Crolley and Gates Roll of Coastal Expeditions, students, teachers, and volunteers viewed the vast chordgrass salt marshes and abundant bird life, and discussed the importance of biodiversity in maintaining healthy ecosystems.  Upon landing on Bulls Island, students spent the morning touring the maritime forest, freshwater marshes, and pristine beaches, spotting egrets, fox squirrels, and— of course— alligators along the way.

Students lunched in the shade of live oaks draped with resurrection ferns and Spanish moss.  After a bit of tree climbing and a spontaneous dance circle, the afternoon was spent in the historic Dominick House.

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Sweetgrass basket artisan Vera Manigault guided students through the history of sweetgrass basketry and the modern Gullah Geechee culture.  Michael Allen, a Community Outreach Specialist for the National Parks Service, then discussed the history and significance of the Gullah Geechee corridor.  He spoke to the importance of the Lowcountry in helping to build South Carolina as a vital part of the United States both yesterday and today.

Mr. Allen summarized the day best; “We live in a special, unique, sacred place.”  We have a duty to protect the diversity of life— plant, animal, and human alike— which makes the Lowcountry so special.

And the students of Over the Horizon have already taken the first steps in accepting that mantle.

Special thanks to all the educators and volunteers that made this amazing experience possible again this fall for students from Wando and Burke High Schools.

 

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Pictures by Alisha Marshall & Eliese Ronke