In August of 2016, we took our very first Hip Homeschool Moms Homeschool Road Trip to Fort Caswell, North Carolina. We had a wonderful time! It was so much fun meeting other homeschooling families from the Hip Homeschool Moms audience! We learned, played, ate, and relaxed together for 5 days on the beach!
We also took our second annual Homeschool Road Trip to Space Camp in October of 2017. You can read more about that trip here. We’ll soon announce our third annual trip and share pictures from the Space Camp trip, so be sure to check back with us over the next week or so!
First Annual Hip Homeschool Moms Homeschool Road Trip
Last spring, I was lying in bed, illuminated by the neon glow of my cell phone, when I came across a Facebook post by Hip Homeschool Moms. A field trip was planned for the beach. The beach! With labs in the ocean! And history at a Civil War fort! Seriously, my homeschool brain went into overdrive. We could go to the beach, AND it would be school! I was in…now to get the husband on board.
Maybe it was because it was midnight and he was half-asleep, or maybe it was my natural charm, but he immediately said yes. Before he could change his mind (or come fully awake), I sent in the deposit.
It was official.
We were going to the beach, and it was going to be educational.
Homeschool mom duties for the day… check.
Unfortunately, getting my kids on board for a field trip with a whole bunch of people they didn’t know wasn’t quite as easy. They are typically very shy, and the 11-year-old is at that awkward tween stage where EVERYTHING is embarrassing. But, I convinced them that it would all be worth the anxiety to get to have school at the beach. None of their friends could say they were going to an estuary to study marine life for the week. And, to appease them further, I promised a pit stop at their favorite cousins’ home that was conveniently on the way.
The fabulous owners of Hip Homeschool Moms couldn’t have picked a better location for science, history, and fun. Ft. Caswell, built between 1826 and 1836, was a functioning federal military base from the Civil War all the way to World War II. A significant portion of the original fort remains. The fort was purchased in the 1940s by the Baptist Assembly and is now used as a retreat and convention center.
The fort is located on the tip of Oak Island, North Carolina. On one side is the Atlantic Ocean – on the other, the estuaries. The estuaries are fascinating. This area where the rivers meet the ocean is full of many unique animals and plants.
Ft. Caswell Estuaries
The estuaries were also calm water. We spent one morning learning to kayak. It’s a little harder than it looks. A large part of our time was going in circles. **Note to self: Don’t sit in the back of the kayak. You will be splashed in the face repeatedly! But of course your daughter will insist it was an accident.
The marsh of the estuary was the perfect place to find interesting creatures. The staff at Ft. Caswell instructed us in how to use a seine to catch marine life. We didn’t catch much. But, we did realize we hadn’t thought through this part of the trip. About five minutes after hopping into the water (which reached waist deep for the person in the deepest portion) we realized wallets, car remotes, and Fitbits had been submerged. Luckily we were using our awesome waterproof cases we had in our Nature Study Backpacks, so our phones were saved.
Later that day we went fishing for the elusive blue crab. He was slippery to catch. However, we were able to scrape a few barnacles off the side of the dock. We studied them with our new macro lens purchased specifically for this trip. It easily attaches to any cell phone and magnifies whatever you aim it at.
On the furthermost tip of the island is a great spot to fly fish…or so I’m told. I’m not a very good fisherman. Dad taught the girls all he knew about fishing, but alas we caught only waves. We had very little patience and discovered fishing might not be our sport of choice, but the views and the ocean were beautiful.
Ft. Caswell History
After dinner, we jumped on the back of a trailer and took a “Hayride” (without the hay) around the fort. The history of the fort was fascinating (we’re history nerds), and we were even able to tour the inside. We climbed to the top of the fort and looked out across the ocean to Bald Head Island. The view was breathtaking.
Ft. Caswell Beach
The next day our field labs were on the ocean side of the island. There we participated in another seine activity to find beach life. But, this time we were smart enough to leave our valuables in the hotel AND wear beach clothes.
We went on a seashell scavenger hunt and spent time with our group leader as she explained what type of creatures had used them for their homes.
We talked about the different types of sea turtles and which ones used the island as their nesting grounds. Oak Island is a scientific research area for the sea turtles. Each year volunteers spend weeks monitoring sea turtle nests and documenting them. We created one of our own out of the sand.
Ft. Caswell Classes
Later that afternoon, we moved inside to one of the classrooms for a sand lab. The girls had a blast learning how to work a microscope and identifying the types of sand.
Our next lab was a water cycle lab. This lab was a really inventive way to teach the water cycle. Each student was given string to make a bracelet. To get the beads, they had to play the Incredible Journey game by rolling dice at different stations. The roll of the dice told them what station they could go to next. At each station, there were beads of different colors to add to the bracelet. Every person’s bracelet was unique, and the game was lots of fun.
Bald Head Island
The following day, we went on an off-island excursion. It started off with an exciting ferry ride (my girls’ first) to Bald Head Island. The island only allows golf carts as transportation, so we walked around the island as a group. This island was used by the federal government as an Atlantic Ocean defense and still has a lighthouse that we were able to tour.
After all that walking in the heat, we decided to make a quick stop at Flava’s for some ice cream and Cheerwine. I’m pretty sure I haven’t drunk a Cheerwine since I was 12, and my children were a little wary about trying it. But, as you can see, a little Cheerwine and a new beach hat can turn even the youngest of us into a diva.
Sea Turtle Watch
Each night we desperately tried to witness the hatching of new baby sea turtles. We waited for hours, and every night we were disappointed as the little guys refused to join us on our fieldschooling adventure. But, we did enjoy talking to the volunteers and learning about the research that has been done on the sea turtle egg laying habits.
Finally, the sea turtle eggs decided to hatch. The volunteers carefully inventoried the nest and found one little guy at the bottom. We watched as he valiantly made his way to the ocean.
At last, it was the end of our fantastic field trip with Hip Homeschool Moms. Our family was blessed to be able to experience so many amazing things at one time, but by far the best memories we will have are the friends we made and the time we spent as a family.
And, as we drove off the island, we had to stop…to “Blow the Tree Down.”
This post is part of a series of fieldschooling adventures. Find more entries in the Homeschool Travel Journal.
Would you like to join Hip Homeschool Moms on our next field trip? If so, where would you like to visit? To become part of our community, click here to request to be added!