FOEN Hosts Field Trip for Elementary School Students

Rock Hall Elementary students participate in activities at the Eastern Neck NWR Butterfly Garden

In the first on-site youth program sponsored by the Friends of Eastern Neck since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 35 fifth-grade students from Rock Hall Elementary School spent the day at the Refuge. The students planted native species in the Butterfly Garden near the recently relocated George and Jean Bankey memorial gazebo: two Sweet Bay Magnolia trees (Magnolia Virginiana), which can grow up to 60 feet tall, and four Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). Planting pollinator-friendly species contributed to the school’s Project-based Learning initiative and will provide supporting material for its goal to become a Green Ribbon School (

The day’s second major activity was a dynamic “Monarch Migration” game designed and supplied by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The game features a course with numbered placards, each of which depicts an event experienced by Monarchs in their annual fall migration to Mexico: finding good food sources en route, as well as perils and obstacles encountered by the distinctive butterflies. Each student was allowed to play multiple times, and many took the course at a run. Everyone made it successfully to Mexico at least once.

The field trip wrapped up with a school-provided lunch at the Visitors Center and a rambunctious game of Duck-Duck-Dinosaur (a variation of Duck-Duck-Goose). The Friends also provided a goodie bag for each student and teacher. One of the students conducted a poll rating the field trip, and we’re happy to report that the scores were almost all 9s and 10s out of a possible 10. This marked a welcome re-start for youth activities that were suspended during the pandemic, and a template for collaboration between the Friends, the USFWS and our local community. Special thanks to teachers Ashley Spencer and Dave Jachimowicz. We look forward to making this an annual event.