Laura Craven Duncan (’84) is the type to put a lot of work behind her passions. And Laura is passionate about sea turtles.
Laura is a first-grade teacher at Ballentine Elementary School in Irmo, SC, and she and her classroom were recently written up in the regional school newsletter for raising more than $3,000 for the South Carolina Sea Turtle Rescue – a sea turtle hospital located at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. This is their second year to accomplish this impressive feat.
Laura doesn’t just put her students through the paces of a fundraiser. Far from it. She uses the opportunity to teach her class about the plight of this endangered species, and the wonders of this magnificent creature. Students learn about South Carolina’s state reptile, the Loggerhead turtle, and get to see the Loggerhead up close when the senior biologist at the Sea Turtle Rescue visits the school. Her students get to visit the Sea Turtle Rescue facility to present the check, and to tour the operation. The school’s technology assistant creates sea turtle commercials to be shown during the school news each morning so that everyone in the school can learn about turtles. Laura said the televisions spots had a dual purpose. “The commercials were so important to our students because they not only helped us advertise our fundraiser, but they also allowed students to share ways we can all make a difference in helping save the turtles.”
And, of course, the students work together each year to raise a lot of money for their hard-shelled cause. Each year the class puts together an item to sell that displays original artwork by the students –a calendar, a magnet, a book. This year they made reusable shopping bags which not only served make money, but also as an aid to the turtles. Plastic bags littering the ocean are a major reason sea turtles are in trouble. Bags floating in the water look like the sea creature that is a major part of a turtle’s diet: jellyfish. Turtles mistakenly eat the bags, their digestive tracks get impacted, and the turtle dies. Laura thinks the reusable bags will help. “By selling these reusable grocery bags, we are hoping that more people will opt out of using plastic.”
Laura says the unit on turtles gives her students a well-rounded understanding of how turtles function in the ecosystem, what their threats are, and how we can help. “This experience touches every child and shows them the importance of how we can protect endangered species. They are learning while making a positive difference for the environment.”