Network for Endangered Sea Turtles 24 HR. HOTLINE 252-441-8622

By Holly Robinson and Louise Vance

Dare County teachers are now using the sea turtle curriculum developed by N.E.S.T. to teach students about our beautiful sea turtles in all FIVE elementary schools. The curriculum project began in 2017 at Kitty Hawk Elementary (KHES) and over the next six years the curriculum was introduced and implemented in a school each year (except for the COVID year). With over 2800 elementary school students, we are building a strong base of our next generation of NESTers. Students and their family and friends are learning about how important the conservation of our sea turtles and the ocean they live in are to our environment.

Mural at the entrance of KHES

In the summer of 2017 a meeting was held at Kitty Hawk Elementary School to introduce the idea of implementing a sea turtle curriculum . After development of a sea turtle curriculum notebook, aligned with the North Carolina State Standards, Louise Vance and Holly Robinson of N.E.S.T. met with the principal, head librarian and grade level lead teachers to introduce and explain our curriculum and the support N.E.S.T. would provide for curriculum implementation in the school. This opened the door to what has turned out to be a very exciting and growing opportunity to educate future generations about our beautiful threatened and endangered sea turtles that live in our children’s own backyard.

Sea turtle corner at the KHES library

In September 2023 we began the implementation of the sea turtle curriculum in Manteo Elementary School, our fifth and final elementary school in Dare County. There are over 2,800 students in the five elementary schools.  The opportunity to  educate these students and their families, who at home hear from their enthusiastic children about sea turtles, provides an expanding network to protect, promote and support our sea turtles. All of the schools continue to teach the sea turtle curriculum in selected grades and expand the resources in the library for all the students in each school.

It was very exciting to meet with the leadership of Manteo Elementary School and Dare County administration this September to begin their implementation this academic year of our final elementary school. Their enthusiasm was obvious and they were already coming up with innovative ideas for projects to expand and support the curriculum. Each of the schools has done fabulous projects along with the curriculum. Kitty Hawk Elementary School created Breakout Boxes, each student answers questions about sea turtles and finally the first group to break open the box with keys wins!! Nags Head Elementary School 5th graders wrote poems and art work about sea turtles and each 5th grade class published a book. Cape Hatteras Elementary did Turtle Tuesday in the library, read books and did beautiful artwork. First Flight did library centered book reading and Q&A to challenge the students. We can’t wait to see what Manteo Elementary students create. These are only one example of the many turtle projects each of these schools have done and continue to do.

Green bottle top sea turtle art at KHES

Each elementary school also implements the sea turtle curriculum as part of their regular NC curriculum since all of the lessons are aligned with the North Carolina standards and learning objectives. The grade that teaches the curriculum as part of the subject of their choice, most often Science, is provided with a trip to the aquarium in Manteo to visit the STAR Center and see the turtles in rehabilitation. They are always so excited when they arrive and Louise and Holly do a presentation with them before they head off into the aquarium. N.E.S.T. pays for the transportation for the trip.

Each school has centered much of the activity and learning in the library. The librarians have been fantastic utilizing the books N.E.S.T. funds for each school. They do all types of reading and research projects in the library and all grades therefore receive sea turtle education.

Wooden sea turtle model and students from Cape Hatteras Elementary School

The schools each also receive a full sized wooden hand painted replica of a loggerhead sea turtle and a soft copy of our beach sign. These are displayed in the library but available as teaching aids for any class. One of the most exciting events for the students is the naming of the replica sea turtle, A school wide competition is held and a big box is put in the library for the name submissions. Again Louise and Holly have the privilege of picking the winner and the student who has submitted the winning name receives a N.E.S.T. T-shirt during an assembly. So far we have Seaweed, Surfer, Salty and Banks!!! We are looking forward to the name of our final loggerhead!!




N.E.S.T. gives support to the schools with library and classroom sea turtle books, visits to the aquarium to see the sea turtles in STAR., and visiting experts. The  WIN of this program is the impact being made on over 2800 young minds…who are now educated, enthusiastic and compassionate about our beautiful sea turtles.