The S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ marine education program recently expanded efforts to Winyah Bay, reaching students in Georgetown and Horry counties.
The program expansion consisted of relocating the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Education Vessel Discovery to the Belle Isle Marina in November to enable educators to better reach students in the northern coastal areas. DNR’s Carolina Coastal Discovery Marine Education Program has been conducting programs, both land and boat-based out of the Charleston Harbor and further south in the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Basin (ACE) since 2003. The Carolina Coastal Discovery Program has evolved into a multi-faceted opportunity for schools from a marine educational initiative that was first established by DNR in the 1960s.
Additional information about the DNR’s Carolina Coastal Discovery Marine Education Program. The South Carolina Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Program and the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation funded the program expansion.
Elizabeth Vernon, DNR’s Marine Education coordinator, said, "We are very pleased with the success of our marine education program expansion to Winyah Bay. We have been able to reach teachers and students in the northern coastal areas that may not have had the opportunity to travel to our other program locations in Charleston, Colleton, and Beaufort counties. We are excited about continuing the programs in this area when we relocate our Education Vessel back to Winyah Bay for a couple of weeks in the spring next year."
The Winyah Bay location was selected as an ideal estuary for conducting programs that would serve as suitable complement for DNR marine education programs in locations further south. The relocation enabled educators to offer programs aboard the catamaran Education Vessel Discovery from a location in Georgetown County logistically more feasible for the northern coastal area schools and students. The Carolina Coastal Discovery Marine Education Program seeks to provide students with destination-based marine science education through hands-on activities and field experiences.
The two-week venture allowed DNR marine educators to connect with more than 275 students from schools in Horry and Georgetown counties. Each trip accommodated up to 30 students per day, from grades 5 and above, aboard the 45-foot catamaran in Winyah Bay. Students were imparted with lessons including estuarine and salt marsh ecology, the importance and value of the ecosystem, watershed fundamentals and the biology and identification of plants and animals endemic to the salt marsh. Many students had never experienced this type of hands-on field opportunity in Winyah Bay. "Almost half of the students experienced their first boat trip during these field trips," Vernon said.
DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.