Barrier Islands and Sea Turtles Ecology

A group of teachers from Hazelwood School District were selected to attend the Barrier Islands and Sea Turtles Ecology trip offered through Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers over the summer.

Thirteen teachers from Hazelwood School District were selected to attend the Barrier Islands and Sea Turtles Ecology trip offered through Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers over the summer. The teachers flew into Savannah, Georgia before taking a boat to Ossabaw Island where they spent three nights in a plantation-style hunting lodge.

The participating teachers were: Christina Hughes, West High, biology – Science Curriculum Coordinator; Pamela Hughes-Watson, East High, biology; Chris Link, Central High, biology; Scott Kratzer, Garrett, fifth grade; Sara Berghoff, Jamestown, fifth grade; Leigh Bagley, Northwest Middle, sixth grade; Stephanie Knight, Coldwater, third grade; Elizabeth Goodman, Northwest Middle, sixth grade; Kelsey Gillstrom, Lawson, fifth grade; Stephanie Heckstetter, Walker, fourth grade; Karis Jackson, Central Middle, eighth grade; Rodney Bouchard, Barrington, fifth grade; Lisa McPherson, Coldwater, fifth grade

The group members spent their days at the beach where they saw a lot of wildlife and marine life. They worked in groups on various activities including: creating a model of a barrier island and its mainland, constructing a bird's nest and writing instructions on how to build it, and playing a predator/prey game from Picture Perfect Science.  

During their free time, most of the group chose to take walks and explore the ecological and historical aspects of the island. In the evening the group went on turtle walks on the beach. Hughes said they were very fortunate to see a total of five sea turtles.

“Most of the turtles were crawling back to the ocean, but the groups did see two turtles crawl up to the dunes, dig their nests and lay eggs,” said Hughes, the new science curriculum coordinator.

The trip facilitator Steve Rick and his colleague Dean, both coordinators at the Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers, provided opportunities for teachers to work in grade-level groups and plan how the experiences would be integrated into classroom instruction. An example of an integration plan included using a video of rapid sand erosion by a stream flowing into the ocean to discuss the water-related erosion in earth science class. Another example of an integration plan included discussing and modeling of nesting habits and nature versus nurture behaviors in animals. Rich also provided teachers with a list of trade books and videos as well as ELA strategies that they can use in the classroom.

Two elementary teachers, Stephanie Heckstetter and Sara Bergoff, submitted a proposal to present at the elementary portion of the Interface Conference in Tan-tar-a, Lake of the Ozarks in February. Hughes said that throughout the year participating teachers will be sharing their knowledge and lessons ideas with the PLCs and grade level teachers.

Gillstrom said it was a very positive experience for all who participated.

“It was a wonderful group of people,” said Gillstrom. “Everyone was enthusiastic about learning and extremely positive the entire trip. I think we all really enjoyed our time on the island and greatly appreciated the opportunity to be a part of such a fantastic experience.”

She also said the trip provided many benefits.

“There are endless benefits to participating in the program,” she said. “They included building relationships with other teachers in the District and creating a network of support and collaboration among them, increasing my background knowledge of barrier islands and sea turtle ecology, igniting an enthusiasm for science learning and being a part of our environment, and utilizing the science practices we teach on a daily basis such as making observations, asking questions and conducting investigations. I am looking forward to taking what I have learned and incorporating it into my classroom.”

Kratzer said the trip gave him the opportunity to personally experience the science curriculum that he teaches.

“Students learn about various habitats and the adaptations of the organisms that live in them throughout our curriculum,” said Kratzer. “By participating in this trip, I was able to experience the habitat of a Barrier Island that is relatively undisturbed by humans and observe the animals living there, which is impossible to experience where we live.  I now have a greater depth of knowledge about the importance of these ecosystems and the impact of humans on them.”

Hughes said the teachers expressed appreciation to the District for providing them with this opportunity. She said several teachers expressed interest in returning next August to watch the baby sea turtles hatch and make their way to the safety of the ocean.

Scholarship fair Saturday, Sept. 7 at SLU 

As the cost of college education skyrockets, an organization that opens the door for qualified high school students to enter college is hosting a scholarship fair.

The Infinite Scholar Program is presenting the scholarship fair, Saturday, September 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Center for Global Leadership on the campus of Saint Louis University. The fair is open to any high school senior and junior, as well as selected sophomores.

The mission of Infinite Scholars – which started 10 years ago in the St. Louis area and now stages fairs nationally – is to provide financially disadvantaged students the means and guidance to further their education by pursuing degrees at institutions of higher learning. The program helps students get little to no cost scholarships, said Ron Ellis, National Operations Manager for Infinite Scholars.

Ellis said when qualified students are gathered in a room “in many cases they leave with a scholarship in hand.”

The scholarship fairs will feature representatives from colleges and universities from across the country. These fairs differ from “college fairs” when reps just college information.

“The way Infinite Scholars does it is that we try to appeal to the kids who do qualify for a scholarship, those who have the higher GPA’s, higher test scores,” Ellis said. “We have colleges who come in that are looking to give scholarships.”

A sampling of the higher education institutions that come to Infinite Scholars fairs include schools such as: the Air Force Academy, Ohio Northern University, Purdue University, Webster University, Ashford University, University of Saint Mary, University of Missouri (including UMSL and UMKC), University of Northern Iowa, Saint Louis University, Missouri State University, Mineral Area College, Missouri S&T, Alabama A&M University, Philander Smith College, Tuskegee University, University of North Florida and Florida A&M University.

Ellis said that about $1 billion in scholarships have been awarded since the organization’s inception. He said it is not unusual for a student to receive a $40,000, full-ride scholarship.

Infinite Scholars began in 2003 by retired, St. Louis high school teacher Thomas Ousley. He partnered with a group of people who believed in higher education for youth that would be affordable. The first year there were five fairs two states; today for are 25 fairs in 20 cities across the United States.

“Most of the people who work for Infinite Scholars are volunteers,” Ellis said. “It is a program everybody believes in.”

A registration form can be filled out online at Infinite Scholars St. Louis office is at 9648 Olive Street, Creve Coeur, MO 63132. The email: You can call 314-625-3819. Find Infinite Scholars also at

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