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‘Ding’ introduces new STAR teacher

By Staff | Jun 14, 2017

“Ding’s” new STAR, Sara Hallas. ASHLEY GOODMAN

Sara Hallas, who teaches environmental science within the Lee County School District, became the latest STAR teacher at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge last Monday.

Hallas learned about the program through another teacher who participated in it a few years ago.

“I feel very lucky to have this opportunity,” Hallas said. “I’m excited to learn and see how it goes.”

Some of her duties with the STAR program (Summer Teachers Assisting Refuges) include assisting with visitor services and performing duties within the natural resources education realm. The program is entirely funded by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society.

“Every Friday, I get to do a beach walk taking families or students from summer camps out on the beach pointing out plants and different critters that they find and giving them facts. I’ll be doing some trail walks as well, again pointing out different plants and just informing people about the nature around us, if we get lucky and see some wildlife, that’s awesome,” Hallas said.

Hallas explains the rules of a guessing game to Sanibel Recreation Center summer campers. ASHLEY GOODMAN

In addition to helping Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland with the free refuge programs that are offered during the summer, Hallas will teach students about marine debris at different libraries around Lee County and she’ll also be in charge of putting together an education curriculum for the Sanibel Recreation Center’s summer campers who visit the refuge twice a week.

“We’re diving in right away which is good because it gets me out of my comfort zone,” Hallas said.

During the school year, Hallas, who was previously a second grade teacher at River Hall Elementary in Alva, Florida, takes fourth graders out to different mud flats around Lee County, like Bunche Beach, three days a week to teach them about the different animals and plants that inhabit that particular ecosystem. For the students who are in Cape Coral, Hallas takes them out to Tropical Point Park on Pine Island.

“We’re given a driver and a bus, we go to the schools, pick the kids up, take them to the estuaries, try to get as much time in the water as possible and then we bring them back to the beach where I give them a lesson on everything and then we go to lunch, then bring them back to school,” Hallas said.

Her job with the school district she says, forces her to be on her toes.

Hallas holds a horseshoe crab during a field trip to Bunche Beach. ASHLEY GOODMAN

“It’s constant research because things are always changing,” Hallas said.

Hallas received her bachelors degree in education at Florida SouthWestern State College. Her stint at “Ding” will last from June 5 to July 31.

“I’m excited to learn and make it my own,” Hallas said.