Please contact the Refuge for ideas and assistance with incorporating environmental education into your curriculum. Refuge staff can assist you in finding or developing activities that correlate with Standards of Learning.
Field trips are strongly encouraged to provide students with direct experience in the natural world. We would suggest the following outline to achieve the most meaningful educational experience.
On Site Activity
The following list includes brief descriptions of structured hands-on activities which have been specifically designed by Back Bay NWR for visiting educational groups. Since the procedures for these activities are rather lengthy, they have not been printed in full here. More extensive descriptions, objectives, procedures, and safety guidelines can be sent to you upon request. These activity plans can be modified to suit your grade level or to accommodate any other needs and interests. The ideal group size is approximately 1 adult for every 10 students and each activity takes approximately one hour, including time for discussion. Equipment and a copy of the data sheets are provided by the refuge, but educators are expected to make their own copies of the data sheets for their group and students are expected to bring their own "field notebooks" and writing utensils.
Who Uses the Marsh?
Level: Elementary / Middle Location: Bay TrailThis activity introduces children to the wetlands ecosystem, the difference between wetland and non-wetland soils, and several wetland plants and animals. Students role play biologists asked to complete a data sheet by their refuge manager. Students investigate and evaluate the impact of different uses of the marsh, such as wildlife habitats, water purification, and educational and recreational purposes. Students also indicate what plants, animals, insects, and birds they saw.
Exploring the Pond Habitat
Level: Elementary / Middle Location: Pond Outdoor ClassroomThis activity acquaints students with the diversity of plant and animal life in a freshwater pond. Students use nets, strainers, and buckets to collect, identify, and observe a variety of pond life.
Sea Turtle Explorers
Level: Elementary / Middle Location: Refuge BeachStudents simulate the beach monitoring done by refuge biologists during each Sea Turtle nesting season. Students first explore the beach to look for turtle nests. Upon locating a nest, students will transplant the nest and eggs (ping-pong balls) to a more safe and suitable environment. A great deal of information about Sea Turtles and an appreciation of conservation efforts can be gained through this activity. *NOTE* To get the most out of this activity, refuge staff assistance should be enlisted. However, this may not be possible at all times, so please call early to reserve this activity.
Beach Scavenger Hunt
Level: Elementary Location: Refuge BeachStudents explore habitat and wildlife variations in different zones of the beach through transect studies. At 10 meter intervals, students examine a half-meter radius for plant and animal life, human evidence, sand composition, and ghost crab holes. The ghost crab is considered to be an indicator species of human interaction – the more holes, the less the impact by humans, unless food is introduced.
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American bitterns are year-round inhabitants of Virginia Beach and members of the heron family. These birds are typically very shy and secretive, hiding among reeds and grasses along the edges of lakes and bays. There are a few very friendly bitterns at Back Bay though, so keep your eyes peeled and camera ready next time you are in the area. Their camouflage is excellent so we must be attentive to detail to spot these beautiful birds.