Youngsters explore, restore Westport’s fragile dunes

Students plant beach grass at Cherry and Webb Beach in Westport this fall. Students plant beach grass at Cherry and Webb Beach in Westport this fall.

Students plant beach grass at Cherry and Webb Beach in Westport this fall.

Students from five schools in Fall River, Westport and Dartmouth have participated in a field study exploring the dunes at Cherry & Webb Beach in partnership with the Westport River Watershed Alliance.  The field study was part of the Dune Restoration Project, which was run for the twelfth time this year.

Participants learned about the unique plants of the dune ecosystem and planted approximately 2,000 American beach grass seedlings in an ongoing effort to restore an eroded section of the dunes.  They were able to observe the results of the work classes did in years past.  More than half the plants survived and have grown and taken root in the sand.  The beach grass planting builds on a dune restoration effort that was begun by Westport resident Ben Guy over 30 years ago.

The students traveled to four different teaching stations led by Watershed Alliance staff and volunteers. At each they learned about dune ecology and the unique plants found there.  The goal of the project is to not only teach students natural science, but also to build a sense of stewardship among the students for the special natural communities found in Westport.

The Dune Restoration Project is part of the Westport River Watershed Alliance’s Watershed Education Program.  Classes from Pre-K through high school participate in the program.  Each year students learn about different aspects of their watershed.  The Westport River Watershed Alliance provides the program as a compliment to the science curriculum each grade is covering for the year. It provides a hands-on way for students to not only learn science, but also about the habitats that are in their own backyards.

Funding for the Dune Restoration Project was made possible from a Bay Watershed Education and Training grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Foundations supporting the educational effort are the Helen Ellis Charitable Trust, Van Sloun Family Foundation, Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence Trust, and BayCoast Bank.

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