Hilton Head, SC
It was a dare to take hundreds of seventh graders kayaking along Broad Creek.
It might be a challenge. For others, it is a test in patience. Jean Fruh spent a typical spring day leading jacket-clad students through Shelter Cove Marina, where they were fueled by field trip enthusiasm and teenage wit tandem paddling. Outside Foundation volunteers.
It is the one she wishes all Beaufort County students had.
Fruh, a lifelong educator who is also the Outside Foundation executive director, started the program 20 years ago with two science teachers. Kayaks for kidsEight years ago. Fruh and volunteers from the foundation have helped more than 1,000 Beaufort County students each school year.
It’s more than getting out of your school chair and paddling to your heart’s content. The program teaches students about ecology and local habitat, as well as oysters ecological importance. Fruh said that the program is about exposure, connecting abstract ideas using all senses, and making sure students get outside to understand their surroundings.
These children’s environment is everything. Fruh stated that if we don’t protect our waters, jobs will disappear and the economy will suffer. This is what you must love if you want them protecting it.
They loved it.
What’s in your backyard?
You wanna race? Two seventh-graders at Hilton Head Christian Academy called up to Doug Langhals, Head of School.
Langhals joked that he would smoke you if he paired him in a kayak alongside one of his students.
The two of them forged ahead, cruising past salt marshes & winding estuaries as Langhals, close behind watched the Monday afternoon unfold onto Broad Creek.
After lunch, half his 42 seventh graders were out on the water. Others were dockside, rotating between stations. Some of these required them to carefully place their bellies on the dock to scoop out water for specimen retrieval and testing.
She said that about 25% of Tamara Davis’s science students have never lived on the east coast. Some are from Denver, while others hail from Chicago. Her classroom is like a melting pot of geographical backgrounds.
Davis has been involved in the program for approximately 15 years. Her children were able to go through it back when it was started by two science teachers.
Davis stated that they need to be able to see what is in their backyards.
For her seventh graders, that means kayaking.
Some students were first to try out kayaking. Fruh said that only half the Kids in Kayaks students have ever tried kayaking, despite being located on or near Hilton Head Island. She also said that tourists have a greater chance of kayaking than children who live in Beaufort County.
Tyler Young, 14 years old, had kayaked once previously. He navigated out of Shelter cove Marina with ease and speed as if he had done it for years.
He was not shy when answering questions like: What is pluffmud made of? What does it mean oysters are filter feeders, and what does that mean? What happens to the shellfish beds if they are polluted
Tyler said it’s very different in person. It is easy to see its size.
He is referring to Broad Creek.
The waterway flows into Calibogue Sound and runs through Hilton Head like a vein. It almost divides the island in half, offering everything from kayaking to critical saltwater marsh, and even a habitat for endangered animals. Many have referred to it as the island’s most important and most vulnerable natural resource. It is worth protecting.
Young was taught about the Lowcountry’s salt marshes by Davis. Outside Foundation volunteers brought the lessons to life in a different way.
(Spartina), a freshwater plant. So how is it living in saltwater. Leslie Bennett took photographs of over a dozen seventh-graders from her single kayak. Why is it not dead?
Rain? A student tried.
Oysters? Another shouted out from their kayak.
Bennett was correct. But what are they to do?
Filter! A third student is called out.
Bennett explained that oysters take salt water and pass it through the grass blades. They then secrete the salt to leave only the grass.
Desalination, a process that costs thousands to replicate, is called desalination.
As dozens of seventh-graders paddled out of Shelter Cove Marina, they learned about the symbiosis that exists between salt marshes and the wildlife of Hilton Head Island.
Water does not pollute itself
Back at the dock, students were exploring their environmental footprint.
One group tested the waters saltiness. One student simply dipped a finger into the water, and took a quick dip Salty! He replied. More cautious students A refractometer was used.This tool is used to measure the concentrations of substances within liquids, in this case saltwater.
Others sat on their backs and rubbed the bottom of the docks with their fingers to identify living species, such as tiny snails.
It was so slimy,” Lucy Reese 13, who took a chunk of matter out of under the dock and put it in a container with water.
Students then took apart the masses to find out what was inside them. Lucys favorite station was the lesson on water pollution. Ellen Sturup Comeau used model towns, sprinkles, Kool-Aid to illustrate the point.
Water doesn’t pollute it self, Sturup Comeau (Clemson Extensions water resources agent), repeated. What causes water pollution?
Tyler offers advice on oil spills
Lucy said, “Animals.”
Littering, an additional student.
All of the answers were correct. A single identifiable source of pollution, such as an oil spillage, is called point source pollution. While littering and animal dung are contributors to non-point source polluting, Both are made worse by impervious surfaces that don’t absorb the pollution before it reaches nearby waterways.
One of the most important contributors to the island’s economy?
Lucy quietly said “Poop” to another student who didn’t want to answer.
Particularly from dogs.
The most recent data is available in a Plan for Broad Creek watershedIt was estimated that Hilton Head Island was home to over 1,800 dogs in 2016. Each dog produces 274 pounds of waste per year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency. If every island resident who owns a dog refused to clean up after their pet then there would be approximately 500,000 pounds of droppings that would remain, waiting to be dumped in the watershed.
Sturup Commeau demonstrated this by pouring brown sprinkles onto the model town. Rainbow sprinkles were added to show pesticides and litter. Seven students then squeezed water onto a model, letting the freshwater flow onto the pollution sources.
It quickly turned cherry-red.
Would you want to swim in that? Sturup Comeau asked.
Tyler smiled with a wink
Would you be able to swim in poop-, pesticide- and trash-laden water? She said that you were braver than I was.
Bravery aside, pollution can cause damage to the island’s shellfish beds and trigger no swimming warnings. In many cases, the solution is as simple as picking up trash and looking after pets.
Lucy saw the blatant pollution display and was more conscious of how she can help. Lucy, the only student in her seven-person group of students, lives on the water with her family. She is used to fishing, being on a boat, and kayaking on May River.
She was taking on Broad Creek for the first time. She feels the same as Fruh, but she doesn’t talk one-on-one. She understands that seventh graders can learn about the environment around them.
Lucy stated that everyone needs to understand. A greater impact can be made if everyone is able to help.
Sarah Haselhorst is a St. Louis native who writes about climate issues along South Carolina’s coast. Her work was made possible by financial support from an Energy Foundation grant. She graduated from the University of Missouri Columbia where she studied sociology and journalism. Sarah previously reported in Jackson, Mississippi, Cincinnati, Ohio, and mid-Missouri.