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trending 21 With 600 all-volunteer members, Masonboro.org is best known for its red-shirted presence protecting the north end of the island every Fourth of July. Each year since 2009, volun-teers haul away and recycle literally tons of discarded party litter after each Independence Day celebration. The nonprofit’s Masonboro Island Explorer (ILX)’s program, begun in 2013 and developed in partnership with North Carolina Coastal Reserve, is a science-based field trip to the unin-habited barrier island lying between Wrightsville and Carolina beaches, east of Wilmington. The protected island is only accessible by boat. In this 2015-16 school year, more than 800 students are expected to enjoy the educational outing. For 2016-17, the goal is 1,200 kids. Many students have not previously been on a large vessel. Some have not been to the county’s beaches, must less a pristine barrier island. Trips kick off at 9 a.m. when the kids, teachers, volunteers and escorts arrive at the docks in Carolina Beach. Begun with transportation to and from Marine Max at Wrightsville Beach, the program moved south to accommodate a significantly larger number of students per trip. Dockside, shipboard and on-the-island instruction by Carolina Oceans Studies is curriculum-based. After ILX instructors brief the kids on the rules and they board one of the Winner head boats, teaching begins immediately. Students sitting on the open top deck learn about marine life, the ocean, and the estuarine ecosystem they will find on the island. After disembarking on the southern end of Masonboro Island, students, teachers and volunteers are split into three groups. Each begins an exercise at either the beach front, on the island’s lee side, or in an estuarine creek for hands-on crabbing. Caiden Jenkins and Logan Myers with treasures found in the marsh. Ella Grae Bullard signs her name in the sand as part of an activity the students do as a way to illustrate the transient nature of beach sand and its role in what makes barrier islands dynamic and ever-changing. It’s also a way for the students to appreciate that Masonboro Island is their island. Left: Students, teachers and volunteers head back to the boat after a day at Masonboro Island. Left: Jane Radack (left) and Tim Lahey (far right) of Carolina Ocean Studies crab in an estuarine creek with students. Each child tosses out and rolls in a string baited with a large chunk of fish on a hook that could have a live crab on the end. Above: Castle Hayne students during marsh class with Lacy Simpson of Carolina Ocean Studies. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


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