By Suzanne Banister
Photography above by Sara Caruso; other photography by Headmistress Nora Dunfee
Students, parents and alumni of the Rancocas Friends School look forward to their annual field trip to Barnegat Light every May. For Headmistress Nora Dunfee, it’s not just nostalgia that leads her back to the place where she spent every summer growing up.
It’s an important way to help young children connect with nature and learn about the science of the shore. Their trip includes a tour of the Viking Village Fishery, netting in the bay, and a treasure hunt on the beach.
The children seek treasures like shells, skate egg cases, horseshoe crabs, gull feathers, and sea glass. Extra credit if a mermaid is spotted! There may have not been a mermaid sighting, but this year there was a first: spotting a whale. Another activity the children enjoy is tossing a message in a bottle at the lighthouse inlet. The project is intended to demonstrate the workings of the tide and currents, but the children are thrilled wherever their bottles are found.
“You can imagine our surprise when we got a letter last summer saying a bottle had made its way across the Atlantic to Ireland!” says Dunfee.
So far, the bottles tossed this May have stayed in the local area from north
to Seaside Heights and inland up the Forked River. The students heard from seven Norwegian teachers who are doing a marine biology workshop at Sedge Island. They were delighted to find a bottle during their study of the area. Many have found this practice controversial, but knowing it can help scientists understand ocean currents always delights the students of the Rancocas Friends School.