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Refuge implements new program to excite youth

By Staff | Feb 6, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED The scavenger hunt begins at an interpretive kiosk, which was created a couple of years ago at the Perry Tract by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The Education Team at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel is in full swing with visiting schools and other groups, and it has implemented a new program to excite young visitors – a scavenger hunt of the beachside site at the refuge’s Perry Tract.

“We are so happy with the outcome of being able to use this wonderful piece of property,” Conservation Educator Sara Hallas said. “It truly is helping us carry out our mission of educating students and inspiring them to become our next environmental stewards.”

She explained the majority of the students brought to the Perry Tract site have never seen a beach or the Gulf of Mexico. The moment they get off the bus, they are filled with curiosity and excitement.

“The students squealed as they dug in the wet sand and felt the coquinas scoot through their fingers,” Hallas said. “They collected and identified shells they were able to take home to share with their families. When they found out they could keep these shells, their faces lit up.”

She noted that there was no hesitation when it came to the hands-on discovery of organic and inorganic materials in the wrack line. The students were also able to determine high and low tides, distinguish flowering from non-flowering native plants, and understand why the sand dunes are so vital.

“They are able to truly understand these concepts because they are in the environment, not just reading about it from a textbook,” Hallas said.