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Burke and Wando High Schools Visit Bulls Island for “Over the Horizon” Field Study on Diversity

A Diversity Trip to Over The Horizon

Students who had met only hours ago at Chick-fil-A for breakfast huddled together with their new friends for warmth, on a windy ferry ride to Bull’s Island. The students from Burke High School and Wando High School were on their way to the island for the Over the Horizon field study. Wando&BurkePhotoOp -KatieRittenhouse

Over the Horizon is a project that teaches students the importance of cultural and biological diversity. The project, now in its third year, unites students from different races, cultural backgrounds, and economic levels. The project includes a day spent exploring and learning on Bull’s Island, a barrier island in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge that is known for its ecological resourcesOlivia, CoastalExpeditionsNaturalist-KatieRittenhouse.

Bull’s Island is an ideal location for a diversity lesson with its variety of habitats: maritime forests, sandy beach, brackish impoundments and salt marsh. Within the diverse ecosystems of Bull’s Island are an abundance of wildlife and plants which co-exist and depend on each other for survival. Gates Roll, a naturalist for Coastal Expeditions, led the students through the different ecosystems, sharing with them the abundant natural and cultural history of the island.

The first stop was at a barely visible foundation of the Martello Tower, where Gates told students about the Sewee Indians who first inhabited the area, the English Settlers who landed and later claimed the island and, that the tower was used as a lookout for pirates and also served during the revolutionary and civil wars.

Next was a visit to Boneyard Beach, where they posed for a group photo with their new friends on a fallen sun-bleached tree. Students passed from the beach, through the maritime forest, to the marsh in mere minutes and learned that the diversity of the ecosystems is what creates a healthy natural community. In addition, they learned that, similarly, in a society where two or more different types of cultures come together, there you will also find a stronger, healthier community.

Back on the trailers, students discussed hobbies, jobs, and which colleges they were going to attend, realizing that despite any differences, there were many more similarities. At the Dominick House, conversation flowed effortlessly as they shared food from their lunches, played ball, braided each other’s hair and did yoga.

The final program of the day was a presentation by Vera Manigault, sweetgrass basketry artisan and Gullah Geechee historian. Students learned the history of sweetgrass basket sewing and its significance to the Gullah Geechee culture. They were even treated to a conversation in Gullah between Vera and Burke student, Aisha.

On the ferry ride back, new friends took photos and exchanged contact information. The students gave an enthusiastic “Oh Yea!” when asked if they had had an enjoyable Over the Horizon experience.

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Expeditions and the Charleston County School District are pleased to announce the expansion of Over the Horizon this year to Lincoln Middle-High School and Academic Magnet High School.

Story by Katie Rittenhouse, Student Conservation Association Intern.