Friday night we had a wonderful field trip to The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. I have heard great things about this facility from The Turtle Singer who brings her live turtles to kick off the summer reading program at our library.
The Wetlands Institute Mission Statement:
To promote appreciation, understanding and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems through our programs in research, education and conservation.
The Wetlands Institute offers Nature Education for Homeschool Students and Teachers (NEHST) Program. It is for students from first through 8th grades. Through this program you can visit the institute once a month for a 90 minute lesson that includes classroom instruction, hands on experiments, hands on activities and more. Each month a different theme is covered.
Our first class was to go on a night hike through the salt marsh. Our class started off inside with an introduction to our instructor. We started off hearing different bird and amphibian sounds and seeing which ones we could identify. We learned about bioluminescence and watch a short movie about deep sea creatures that create their own light (bioluminescence).
We were asked to bring flashlights for our hike and we learned that night animals do not startle as easily if you use a red light as opposed to a regular white flash light. Justin was smart and brought his headlamp (which many of you know is my favorite reading light) which has a red led light.
Our first stop before our hike began was the aquarium. In the dark. We got to observe what fish and other sea creatures look like in the dark. That was really neat! They had several different types of fish, seahorses, sea stars, crabs, octopus, a skate and other sea creatures. It was really neat to shine our flashlights on the different creatures and see what they do during the night.
Then it was out onto the path through the salt marsh. We saw many traps covering the diamond back terrapins egg nests. These traps are put over the nests to protect the eggs from predators. Our instructor pointed out several holes near the traps where raccoons had tried to dig to get to the eggs but were unsuccessful. We observed a terrapin egg shell. These shells are not hard like a chicken egg but more soft and have a leathery feel to them.
We listened for birds and heard a couple of bird sounds during our walk. We ended with walking out on the boardwalk to see small fish and tons of fiddler crabs. It was really interesting to see them scuttling around in the water. We learned that the male fiddler crabs have a large claw and a small claw while the female has two small claws.
We also had an awesome view of some lightening as a storm headed our way.
This was such a fun time and we are looking forward to going back next month!
I did not get any pictures from this trip since most of our visit was in the dark. I hope to share some pictures on our next visit!