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The Southgate Coastal Reserve was created in 1999 and expanded in 2000 through two generous gifts from an anonymous donor with a keen interest in birding and education.
The Reserve is located a little over 3 miles east of Christiansted, just north of East End Road. It totals 100 acres and encompasses a coastal salt pond, mangrove forest, beach forest and upland grassland. The pond and surrounding wetlands provide habitat for many resident and migrant birds including several species classified as threatened or endangered. Three species of sea turtles nest on the beach berm – all are classified as threatened or endangered.
SEA has carefully assessed the site’s habitats and community support for development of the site for bird watching, education and recreation activities. We are currently in the process of designing an environmentally sensitive and sustainable Reserve Center, bird blinds, walking trails and other infrastructure improvements. Landscaping plans will focus on improving and expanding habitat for wildlife. After years of planning and anticipation we are very excited that our plans will soon become a reality.
The goal of this half-day program is to encourage second graders to interact with and ask questions about the natural world. Overarching questions for the field trip are, “Why is this area protected on St. Croix?” and “How is this area similar and different to other familiar places, such as students’ homes and school grounds?” Students visit one of three coastal protected areas: Southgate Coastal Reserve, Salt River (Columbus Landing), or Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. SEA and our partners from the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators (VINE) http://usvine.wordpress.com/ aim to reach more than 500 students each year. The program is available to all public and private schools on St. Croix. Students work in learning communities of 10-15 students and participate in three inquirybased activities such as:
- Sea Turtle Researcher Simulation – measure a sea turtle replica, fill out a field data sheet, locate the ‘nest’ and excavate the ‘nest’ to determine hatching success
- Sand Sieves – sort and compare sand particles using sieves, learn the origin of the particles and how they are made
- Mangroves – explore and compare mangrove species
- Weather Station – use an anemometer, wind vane, cloud chart and thermometer to determine the weather
- Plants – use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast plant species. Upon returning to school students have the opportunity to share their experience with classmates so that they can learn about the activities they didn’t do.
Field Days for 2nd Graders is supported by The Buccaneer, GPK Foundation, Professional Holding Company and the V.I. Children’s Seal Fund.
The goal of this program is for fourth grade students to interact with and ask questions about the natural world and to increase students’ understanding of ecosystem processes and increase awareness of the natural world. Overarching questions for the field trip are, “Why are forests important in the global ecosystem and on St. Croix?” and “What organisms live in a forest ecosystem and how to they interact?”
The program takes place at USDA Estate Thomas Experimental Forest where students work in learning communities of 10-12 and participate in three inquiry-based activities. Examples of activities include:
- Insect diversity – use a variety of tools to capture insects from different parts of the forest and learn about the diversity of insects and their roles in forest health;
- Climate change – create a carbon cycle model and learn about the forests’ role in carbon storage;
- Forest diversity – learn about tropical dry forests and other forest types, forest layers, observe growth rings and measure trees;
- Birds of the forest – use binoculars and field guides to identify common forest birds and learn about the importance of forests to resident and migratory birds;
- Hiking – travel through the forest trails with a natural history guide to learn about forest composition and cultural uses of many plants.
After completing the activities students gather at the pavilion to create art pages to demonstrate what they have learned. High school students guide students in designing their pages. The drawings and collages provide an excellent evaluation tool for educators.
Forest Field Days is funded by the USDA Forest Service and assisted by our partners at VINE.
This program provides an in-depth look at coral ecology and challenges students to become stewards of and advocates for the marine environment. An academically challenging program for junior high and high school students, the CCC also includes plenty of field experience with snorkel and kayak trips, and marine park visits.