Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) students Gracelyn Clark and Caitlin Dougherty enjoyed the Colonial Middle School Oceanography Club’s trip to the Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Wallops Island, Virginia — enough that they decided to return to the site to learn more.
So they started an Oceanography Club at the high school and began planning the opportunity to revisit the environmental education center this spring.
"It was nice to have a smaller group the time," said Caitlin Dougherty. "Communication was easier, and we were able to become a much more close-knit group by the end of the trip."
Thirteen members of the club made the trek and participated in five classes, including: Intertidal Studies, Research Cruise, Nocturnal Adaptations Hike, Wetland Ecology, and Dune Ecology. The classes included short lectures and more intensive hands-on activities in nature.
PWHS junior Gracelyn Clark’s favorite class was Wetland Ecology, where they learned about the changes in vegetation over time and marsh ecology. Then they explored salt pans, shallow areas where ocean water evaporates and leaves a layer of salt, in a marsh nearby.
“For 45 minutes, we tried to travel across the salt pans and walk further into the swamp, but we failed miserably,” said Gracelyn. “Everyone kept slipping and getting stuck in the mud since it was so wet; it was hilarious. At one point, some of us actually swam across one of the pans since it had a few inches of water covering it, which was kind of gross but really funny. Mr. Gould threw himself into the pan at one point! The other classes were fun as well, but Wetland Ecology takes the cake.”
At PWHS, the Oceanography Club, sponsored by Marine Science Teacher Lee Gould, encourages members to educate each other through presentations on marine life topics.
While the Chincoteague Bay Field Station is located in Virginia, the center is actually run by a consortium of 11 Pennsylvania colleges, including Kutztown, Bloomsburg, and West Chester.