Wetsel-Bay trip

Twenty-three Wetsel students traveled to Smith Island to learn about life in the Chesapeake Bay.

Recently, 23 Wetsel Middle School students took a trip to Smith Island in Tylerton VA. Smith Island is in the middle of Chesapeake Bay! We learned about crab pots, ways to keep the water clean, how to conserve water, how to be safe on the bay, and how the people live on the island, including the watermen way of life. Also, we planned, prepared, and cooked all meals for everyone in our group during the whole trip! We chose meals that we all agreed upon and were easy to cook.

On the first day, we learned the parts of a crab pot, baited them with dead fish, then put them in the water to catch crabs. The next afternoon, we removed the pots from the water and discovered we had caught so many crabs! We also learned how to tell whether the crab was a male or female by the markings on their abdomen. According to a local legend, the crabs have a princess-shaped pattern on their back because ancient crabs were grateful for the help they received from a Native American princess. We loved hearing stories like this throughout our trip.

On the second day, we toured the town, met the local people, and learned about how they survive on an island. “It was nice to meet new people and hear about their history on the Island,” said Hannah Dixon. We found out mail is delivered to them everyday by boat. Even Amazon delivers to them in 3 days. We also learned kids that live on the island take a 45 minute boat ride then a 20 minute bus ride, just to attend school on the mainland everyday. The most memorable activity was when we went for a marsh mucking. We walked through the marsh and got to play games to experience what it might be like to live in the marsh as a predator or prey. We were basically “swimming” in the marsh and got so muddy that our clothes, hair, and face were covered! After we cleaned up and had dinner, we were happy to go to sleep.

On Sunday we watched the sunrise and ate breakfast. We had bagels, cereal, and pancakes! Then we packed up our things and made our own bag lunches for the bus ride home. The boat ride back to the mainland was so peaceful and some of us even fell asleep! While we waited for our bus, we sorted our things, and ate our lunches. When we got to Wetsel, our family was there waiting for us!

Two goals while on the island included conserving water and energy. We earned zero strikes for both! We conserved energy by not turning on unnecessary lights or by leaving lights on in rooms we were not using. For the entire trip, only 4.9 gallons of water were used per person. We would have earned a strike if we averaged 5.0 gallons of water.

We would like to thank the Madison County Education Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, and American Woodmark for the grant awards. Also, we would like to thank the Madison County School Board for their support, and our teachers and bus drivers for their time.These are some quotes from some students: “I thought it was pretty fun and learned a lot. Now I know why we need to help the Chesapeake Bay,” said Adrienne Wolf. “ I think we all had fun and if I had to go back, I would,” said Ryleigh Thomas.

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