The Lettered Olive: S.C. Sea Grant Consortium Education News

[ April 21, 2023]

If you find yourself at the beach this spring or summer, you might "startle" upon this month's featured creature, the gray sea star (Luidia clathrata), washed up on shore or submerged in tidal pools. Classified as an echinoderm, the gray sea star is closely related to sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, and sea cucumbers, and although the physical appearance among these organisms may look different, members of this phylum share a few common characteristics. Literally translated, echinoderm means "spiny skin", and refers to the calcium carbonate plates of the skeleton that can be rough and spikey to the touch. While not every type of echinoderm has this hard exterior, such as sea cucumbers, all possess radial symmetry where similar parts are arranged around a central axis. Additionally, all echinoderms have tube feet -- small, sucker-like projections that use the hydraulic pressure from their water vascular system to move and grip surfaces.

Considered to be one of the most primitive of the sea stars, L. clathrata typically prefers low-lit environments and can be found buried just below the sediment. They forage for detritus and actively hunt small mollusks, crustaceans, and other echinoderms, such as brittle stars, using chemoreceptors. To eat, the gray sea star protrudes its stomach outside of the mouth (located on the underside of its body) to digest prey. Gray sea stars exhibit another unique characteristic of all echinoderms: the ability to regenerate, or regrow, some of their organs if they are lost to predation, disease, or physical damage. In the photo above, this gray sea star is in the process of regenerating portions of all five arms!

In the spirit of our featured creature this month, check out this star-studded listing of educational opportunities from the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and our partners!

Photo Credit: E.V. Bell

K - 12 Student and Educator Resources


S.C. Sea Grant Earth Day Challenge

April 17 - 22, 2023

Earth Day is tomorrow, April 22, and students, teachers, and the public-at-large are invited to participate in the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium's (Consortium) Earth Day Challenge! The week leading up to Earth Day, a new daily challenge was posted on social media that encouraged good stewardship and the celebration of nature and the environment. For each challenge, participants have the option to take a photo and tag the Consortium; by doing so, your photo might wind up in our Earth Day montage. It's not too late to join in the fun! To participate, follow the Consortium on Facebook and/or Instagram to access current and past daily challenges. Questions can be sent to E.V. Bell or Emmi Palenbaum.

Clemson 4-H20 Summer Camp

June 12 - 16, 2023

The Clemson 4-H2O Summer Camp engages youth ages 9-12 in exploring the outdoor world and studying their local watershed. Each day, youth will learn about components that make up a watershed through science lessons, scientific equipment, and water quality testing. Participants will engage in fun and educational water activities such as canoeing, boat tours, swamp ecology, birding, and more. For information on the day camp logistics and costs, please visit the registration page. Questions can be sent to Samantha Porzelt.

Employment Opportunities

Education Camp Aide

Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission is hiring an Education Camp Aide who will lead programs focused on environmental and social studies education. All programs primarily take place in a variety of environments and weather conditions on weekdays. Please visit the position description for more information and to apply. Question can be sent to Lindsay Patterson.

Educator Professional Development

EEASC Conference "InclusivitEE"

June 21 - 24, 2023

Penn Center (St. Helena Island, S.C.)

Registration is now open for the 2023 Environmental Education Association of South Carolina (EEASC) Conference, "InclusivitEE: Environmental Education for Everyone"! This year's conference will take place at the historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island from June 21 - 24, 2023 and will provide ample opportunities for learning, engagement, and exploring. Check out the conference webpage for a sneak peek at sessions, field trips, and networking events. Conference questions can be sent to Chanda Cooper

From Seeds to Shoreline® Workshops

August 8, 2023 (Veteran Teachers)

August 9, 2023 (New Teachers)

Registration Opens April 24, 2023

The From Seeds to Shoreline® (S2S) program wants you to join our team for the 2023 - 2024 school year! The S2S program, coordinated by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in partnership with S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Clemson University, is the only salt marsh restoration program in the state designed specifically for K - 12 students and teachers. By growing Spartina alterniflora, the dominant plant of southeastern salt marshes, throughout the school year and transplanting young seedlings to areas of the coastline, students not only learn about the importance of this critical ecosystem but they also serve as environmental stewards. Two training sessions will be offered:

August 8, 2023 (Veteran Teacher Training): This one-day training is optional for those S2S teachers who have been with the program for at least one year. Join us for a fun-filled day of exploration and networking, new resources, giveaways, and much more!

August 9, 2023 (New Teacher Training): This one-day training is a pre-requisite for new teachers interested in participating in S2S for the upcoming school year. The training offers sessions on salt marsh ecology, restoration techniques, classroom applications, and more! There is no cost to attend, however, pre-registration will be required.

Registration opens April 24, 2023 via the S2S website. Questions can be sent to Morgan Treon.

All Booked Up Coastal Reading Club

Are you a formal, nonformal, or homeschool educator interested in discussing books focused on the environment? Join the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s All Booked Up (ABU) Coastal Reading Club!

Please visit the ABU webpage to join our listserv and learn about benefits of becoming a member. Our next book will be announced May 1. Questions can be sent to E.V. Bell.

Teachers on the Estuary Workshop

"Explore the ACE Basin"

July 25 - 27, 2023

Join the ACE (Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto) Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) education and research staff for their annual Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) Workshop! Using South Carolina estuaries as the classroom, participants will explore salt marsh dynamics, collect and analyze data, and receive standards-based, STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) classroom lessons to use with your students. For more information on the workshop and to sign up, please visit the registration page. Questions can be sent to Erica Connery

Awards and Nominations

EEASC Annual Environmental Awards

The Environmental Education Association of South Carolina (EEASC) is pleased to give recognition to those individuals and businesses that have supported environmental education efforts across the state. EEASC is currently accepting nominations for the following categories and the winners will be announced at the 2023 EEASC Conference.

  • Environmental Educator of the Year
  • Green Business of the Year
  • Non-Profit Organization of the Year
  • Outstanding Youth
  • Legislator of the Year

To nominate an individual or organization for one or more of these prestigious awards, please visit the EEASC Awards website for more information.

Additional Opportunities and Resources

S.C. Department of Natural Resources

Education Needs Assessment

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is conducting a needs assessment of teachers and students who use educational resources provided by SCDNR and the ACE (Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto) Basin NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve).

The survey will take about 20-30 minute and upon completion you can enter to win a YETI Roadie® 24 Hard Cooler ($250 value). The drawing will take place May 15. Please access the survey here.

S.C. Sea Grant Consortium Speaker Request Form

Do you have a science night or career day coming up in the future? Would you like a speaker for your students or organization? The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium) has plenty to share regarding marine science careers, current research projects, and engaging coastal science activities for all ages! Be sure to check out our career page to learn more about the Consortium, and if you are interested in booking the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium for an upcoming career day or science night, please fill out this request form.

Enviroscape Loaner Program

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium offers use of the Wetlands Enviroscape Model free-of-charge to any S.C. K-12, nonformal, and homeschool educator. The model provides a hands-on demonstration about how watersheds can be affected by development, pollution, and other human-made and natural impacts. Included as part of the demonstration are ways in which potential pollution impacts can be mitigated (e.g., riparian buffers and salt marshes). To find out more information on requesting to borrow the Enviroscape, please visit the Enviroscape Loaner Program webpage to fill out the request form. Questions can be sent to Morgan Treon

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