By Sarah Vega for The Island Eye News
The chilling wind on March 15 wasn’t exactly pleasant, but the waves and blowing sand it caused showed students from University School of the Lowcountry (USL) exactly how erosion and accretion happen.
Students explored various areas across Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, but before arriving they did quite a bit of research, as is customary when preparing for these weekly Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) experiences.
“Before our excursion, we talked about everything from Hurricane Hugo’s impact on land values, demographics, and insurance, to news articles and briefs from Sullivan’s Island that document a legal fight begun in 2010 over accreted land on the island,” says Jason Kreutner, Head of School.
Driving over the Isle of Palms Connector and the Ben Sawyer Bridge allowed the students to compare the two bridge structures to one another and fully understand the pros and cons of each design. At Wild Dunes, they saw how beaches are renourished, while at Breach Inlet they examined how houses are constructed to withstand wind, flooding, and storm surges.
The students also walked the boardwalk at Station 24 to see the maritime forest. They saw first hand how accreted areas have grown into thriving habitats since their last visit in 2013, allowing them to discuss both the benefits — a more vibrant ecosystem and storm protection — and disadvantages — decreasing ocean views and habitat for coyotes and rats — that result from this natural movement of sand.
While at Fort Moultrie, the students learned that the Army built Charleston’s first jetty there in the 1830s to keep the fort from washing away. By 1883, the shoreline had increased by 500 feet, achieving the Army’s goal of saving the fort.
USL teaches science through an interdisciplinary approach on a three-year theme cycle, and the 2016-2017 academic year is the “Water Year.” In addition to learning about various concepts in the classroom, students partake in more than 30 field trips each year, many of which have reinforced these water lessons. This year students have also kayaked Shem Creek, met with The Post & Courier’s environmental reporter Bo Petersen, grown Spartina marsh grass through the Seeds to Shoreline program, talked about water quality with Charleston Waterkeeper, toured Water Missions International, explored Santee Cooper’s Lake Moultrie Water Treatment Plant, and so much more.
Rising 3rd -5th graders who are high achieving, kind, curious, and interested in learning through hands-on experiences like these field trips are invited to register for USL’s Young Explorers Day Camp. The camp is June 12-16 and will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Students will learn through a daily field trip, as well as exposure to other hallmarks of USL like language immersion and leadership & life skills. The cost is $200. More information is available at uslowcountry.org.