Saturday, October 30, 2010

The ocean and the marsh

Back on the field study..... We left the maritime forest and headed for the beach. The kids noticed immediately how the breeze kept the mosquitoes away. We discussed the longshore current, waves, tides (full moon making it the largest one of the month), and picked up/observed the critters washed ashore.

A horseshoe crab

A jellyfish

This is the area where we stood in the forest at the end of the trail.

The gorgeous lighthouse

The students learned about sand dunes, how necessary they are to the barrier island, and how the fences are there to catch blowing sand and create new dunes. We also learned that one of the grasses on the dune has about 10 inches of root system for every inch above ground.

After the ocean, we ate lunch, and headed for the marsh. I think the rangers learned a valuable lesson at the marsh - when landlocked suburban kids come to the marsh, let them lie down on the boardwalk and watch the snails and crabs.

If you look closely at the spartina grass you'll see little mud snails. Apparently when the tide comes in they crawl up the grass because otherwise they become food for the blue crabs in the marsh.

Then there were the fiddler crabs. An absolute favorite. The males have one claw larger than the other, and wave it outside their burrows to attract the lady crabs. This was big time viewing by my students. I definitely have to go find something fun like this to keep in my classroom. The picture below is of some volcano-like burrows for the crabs.

We finally arrived at the hammack (an island completely surrounded by marsh, and looked at the plants, trees, and amazing views. Walking to the end of the second boardwalk we watched a tidal creek heading for low tide, but the students thoroughly understood the difference between tides, waves, and current after this - check that off my standards to teach. I heard one girl tell another, "OHHHHHH, now I know what she's talking about."

This is a view from the parking lot of the boardwalk and hammack. This was a totally worthwhile trip for my students, but I think I'm going to make sure I go back with my own kids. Heaven must have a marsh.

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