April 8, 2015 – Awendaw, SC – Thirteen students from Lincoln Middle-High School in McClellenville and thirteen students from Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, 26 in all, enjoyed an interactive visit to beautiful Bulls Island, part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
The experience was made possible through a program called “Over the Horizon” which started over 4 years ago through a Riley Institute at Furman – Diversity Leadership in Action project led by a small group of SC Diversity Leaders Initiative participants from the Lowcountry.
Brian Wells, a Charleston area engineer, Patricia Midgett with the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Chris Crolley with Coastal Expeditions charter service, Vera Manigault, renowned local sweetgrass basket artisan, and Michael Allen with the Gullah Geechee Culture Heritage Corridor remain involved in the project, along with many others that partnered for the initial trip to Bulls Island.
The goal of the “Over the Horizon” project is to share the value of diversity, both biodiversity and human diversity. “Just as a healthy ecosystem supports diversity of wildlife, a healthy community supports a diverse group of people”, said Raye Nilius with the National Wildlife Service, one of the original organizers of the first trip.
Building on the success of students from Wando and Burke High Schools participating twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, students from two new schools have now enjoyed their first trip. Lincoln and Academic Magnet students connected over breakfast in a classroom at Lincoln, and rode the bus together to the dock to catch the boat to Bulls Island.
On the boat ride to Bulls Island, naturalist and Coastal Expeditions guide Olivia Melanie began the program with an introduction to the concept of biodiversity.
Once the boat arrived, students set off on a tour of the island’s sights led by Ms. Melanie, including historical landmarks and natural wonders.
After viewing two dozen alligators swimming in a shallow pond, the students visited a monument commemorating the original English settlers of Charleston, or Charles Town as it was first named. These original Charlestonians stopped first on Bulls Island and interacted with Seewee Native Americans before sailing their boat, named Carolina up the Ashley River to start their colony on site now known as Charlestown Landing.
No visit to Bulls Island is complete without a walk on Boneyard beach – the student collected shells and explored this pristine beach in two places before heading back to Dominick House, the island’s sole residence, for lunch.
But the last stop before lunch was a highlight – while walking on a trail, students discovered a group of new born alligator hashlings scampering back to their mother. The students wisely kept their distance from the mama-gator…
After lunch under one of the old oak trees by the Dominick House, the students enjoyed presentations from Vera Manigault and Michael Allen on the history of sweetgrass baskets and the amazing Gullah Geechee culture.
Special thanks to the terrific Natural Wildlife Service Volunteers that helped throughout the day – from driving the transport trailers to ensuring lunch was on the table when we returned from Boneyard Beach!
Thanks to everyone that helped expand the “Over the Horizon” program to include two new schools – the wonderful memories the students left with will be with them forever.