Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

December 1, 2009

Junior Naturalists at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Experience Nature Journaling

Can you remember a time before computers, digital cameras or digital voice recorders .... a time when paper and pencil and film cameras were the tools used to share memories? Many of us can remember, but for most middle school students, "electronic" is all they know. Recently, seven students from Cape Hatteras Secondary School in Buxton, N.C. experienced the age-old practice of journaling on paper. And, they felt the satisfaction of documenting their observations on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

For centuries, naturalists have been using journals to record a wide variety of experiences to share with others. Long before cameras were invented, line drawings and colored pencils were used to document wildlife and wild lands in our country. With modern technology came digital cameras and voice recorders to be used to keep track of a variety of things in the field. Computers with tiny memory cards took the place of hundreds and thousands of pages with handwritten notes and drawings.

With plain black and white composition books and volumes of arts and crafts supplies, these seven students ventured out to "connect with nature". Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Specialist Cindy Heffley gave the Junior Naturalists an opportunity to create their own custom nature journals. Some from the group spread out on the table and benches at the Visitor Center. It wasn’t long before they were cutting and drawing and taping- creating individualized covers for their books. Heffley told stories about past naturalists such as William Healey Dall who accompanied the Western Union Telegraph Expedition of 1865-67 and anthropologist William Duncan Strong’s expedition to Honduras in 1933, as well as more recent naturalists. The students were interrupted by a call from other students near the North Pond Trail. Four river otters were making their way around the pond. One of the students asked if they could go observe the otters. Heffley explained that the best thing about being at the refuge is that the day’s activities can be determined by the wildlife more than an instructor. “We have to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself,” Heffley reminded the students.

With that, the students were given refuge’s digital cameras to record their observations, and off they went. Eventually, they returned to the porch and to their projects and posed for pictures which will be included in their journals. The students will also receive CDs with the digital pictures they took so they can have a record of their day. As they learned during a previous field trip, naturalists and other researchers rely on a variety of tools to provide proof of their journey and experiences. A big part of the process is the documentation. The photographs they take and their new nature journals will be used at their school and on other field trips throughout the school year. Not only will the students have a record of the wildlife and wild lands they see this year, they will also have something tangible to share with others for years to come.

Junior Naturalists from Cape Hatteras Secondary School, with coordinator Linda Austin, proudly display nature journals that document their most recent trip to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. For information about how your students can become Jr. Refuge Friends, contact Cindy Heffley at 252-987-1118 or Photo Credit: USFWS/Heffley.