Masonboro Island welcomes 10,000th student visitor, reaches major milestone

Masonboro Island reached a major milestone when its 10,000th student visited the island on Monday after nearly a decade of the Island Explorer Program.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 7:52 AM EST
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MASONBORO ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) - Masonboro Island reached a major milestone when its 10,000th student visited the island on Monday after nearly a decade of the Island Explorer Program.

Every 5th grade in New Hanover County is ferried to the island for a hands-on, three-station interactive field trip where they learn firsthand about this unique marine habitat. They learn everything about the island’s ecosystem, its soil composition, living creatures and the weather.

Jane Radack, Island Explorer Program director, said connecting what they learn in the classroom to seeing it right in front of them is the most sensational part for students.

“Another one of their big science focuses in fifth grade is the weather. So, all of those types of things we work on, and we try to just immerse them in that because we know their teachers are working hard in those classrooms. But to be able to have their brains connect to what they’re learning in the classroom to what’s really happening in those ecosystems is just really special,” said Radack.

Most of the island is covered with marsh and tidal flats, and in 2013, this program was created to teach 5th graders about the land, providing firsthand experiences that couldn’t simply be provided in a classroom.

For many of the students, it’s their first time in this environment and that makes all the difference.

“They pay attention you know, because that’s a brand-new thing to them. They’re in the field learning they’re not sitting in the classroom. You know, I love classroom instruction, but nothing will ever replace getting on a boat for the first time for some of them going through a deserted island with no houses, seeing crabs,” said Tom Hackler, president of Masonboro.org.

Damonte Russ, Denae Logan, Angelica Barron Trejo and Ra Jaun Greene from Snipes Elementary School are just a few of the students that explained how excited they were to go to Masonboro Island for the very first time.

This program is fully funded from donations to Masonboro.org by corporations, businesses and individual donors. Those donations help local schools by fully funding the field trips. The students also receive free t-shirts after the tour of the island.