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Aransas National Wildlife Refuge ComplexPartnership "Exploring Matagorda Island" Teacher Workshop a Huge Success!
Southwest Region, November 17, 2006
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Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006
Teachers digging for critters.
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Teachers digging for critters. - Photo Credit: n/a
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 
Ghost Shrimp found in the Marsh at Matagorda Island
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Ghost Shrimp found in the Marsh at Matagorda Island - Photo Credit: n/a
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006
Conestogo Wagon ride to the Beach!
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Conestogo Wagon ride to the Beach! - Photo Credit: n/a
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006
Teachers Investigate the organisms that they might find while exploring the marsh at Matagorda Island.
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Teachers Investigate the organisms that they might find while exploring the marsh at Matagorda Island. - Photo Credit: n/a
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006
Birding 101 at Matagorda Island
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Birding 101 at Matagorda Island - Photo Credit: n/a
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006
Classroom review at Matagorda Island.
Photographer: Tonya Stinson, November 2006 Classroom review at Matagorda Island. - Photo Credit: n/a

Background: 

The Matagorda Island Teacher Workshop-Cooperative Initiative was developed to give local teachers an array of subject based learning opportunities at Matagorda Island. The initiative is a collaboration of state, local and national agencies. Cooperative Organizations are U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Region III Education Service Center, The Nature Conservancy, Victoria College, The University of Houston, The Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island and many volunteers. Matagorda Island is the only barrier island along the Texas coast that remains uninhabited and in its natural state.  Educators will have the opportunity to visit the Refuge and realize its importance to both humans and nature as they explore the many facets of this extraordinary wonder. The goal of the partners is to develop a yearly two day workshop consisting of sessions that address the applicable Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills from grades 7 to 12 science, social studies, and technology courses. Teachers will receive integrated-TEKS based lessons, classroom activities, and ideas as well as resource materials, including a personal journal and the McAlisters' Book, A Naturalist's Guide to Matagorda Island.

Exploring Matagorda Island Objectives:

  • Discover how this valuable local resource will make science, social studies, and technology come alive in the classroom.
  • Naturalists will guide participants through hands-on experiences that explore the bay and beach ecology, barrier islands and dune systems, human environment interaction, and cultural history of Matagorda Island.
  • Participants will use digital cameras, GPS & GIS systems to collect, analyze, and communicate acquired data to their students and colleagues.
  • Participants will gain knowledge of the Natural World around them through this interaction thus developing a sense of stewardship.

Exploring Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge

Twenty Two participants and partners participated in the first "Exploring Matagorda Island Workshop". The weather was perfect as the participants set out for Matagorda Island a day after the cold front. Temperatures were in the high seventies with a cool breeze off the bay. Perfect weather for viewing the endangered whooping crane, shore birds, and other migratory birds in the birding trip to the south end of Matagorda Island.  Everyone loaded onto the Conestoga Wagon to travel to the Education Center Bunk House where they would spend the night. Schedule was vigorous for the two day workshop, everyone participate in activities from daybreak until midnight in an effort not to miss anything. Birding was abundant and the marsh was at low tide which was perfect for catching burrowing organisms watershed and estuaries were discussed and curriculum was distributed. The beach was a treat after lunch and a few ghost crabs were collected after a lot of digging, running, and laughing. Beach ecology is always a favorite environmental education class for all ages. The scavenger hunt ended and many collected a few extra items to carry back to their classrooms. After dinner under a perfect sky we were ready for the star program, it is amazing what you can see when there is very little light pollution. We were then took off to the bay side boat dock to collect plankton, view the mullet jumping, and watch the comb jellies luminous abilities.  The plankton projected on the wall while using a hand-held microscope was a favorite activity for many. We finished the day with an introduction to the National Wildlife Refuge System and Matagorda Island. Everyone went to sleep quickly. Shortly after dawn everyone convened for the birding and photography classes. While driving along the beach the birds were in abundance and a pair of Peregrine Falcons displayed their flying abilities for all to view. New found photography documentation skills were used to photograph birds, shells, dune formations, tracks, plants, and people. Everyone headed back to education center for a quick lunch and overview. Curriculum materials, scientific handouts, brochures, posters, t-shirts, pens, pencils, postcards, journals, mesh bags, bat cards, and much more were given to the participants during the two days. Many participants had collected treasures off the beach to take back and share with their students.

The workshop was a huge success for everyone involved. Through this partnership we plan to continue to offer this unique environmental education experience every year.

 


Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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