Take three slow, deep breaths.
Did you know that ocean life supplied the oxygen for two of those three breaths you just took? Or that one cigarette butt can pollute 130 gallons of water? Or that when single-use plastics land in the water, harmful pollutants start leaching into it almost immediately?
These are all facts that our high school students learned in their week on the Carolina coast this month.
As news outlets reported that July was on track to be the hottest month in recorded history, and the waters off Florida hit triple digits, fifteen of our high school students headed to the North Carolina coast for a week of Blue Theology, studying ocean conservation and our Christian connection to – and responsibility for – all creation.
Our group (led by youth minister Debbie Cox, Amy Peterson+, and Jack Peterson) settled into bunk rooms at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort on Friday, July 21, and then gathered to watch the documentary Chasing Coral (2017), about the widespread loss of coral reefs due to increasing temperatures. What we didn’t know as we learned about the bleached reefs off the coast of Australia was that before the week would end, researchers would find that a coral reef restoration site off South Florida had "100% coral mortality." What we were learning was showing up in the news as we learned it. CBS reported that “A loss of coral reefs also means a loss of marine life that depends on those systems for food and shelter. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has warned that more than half of the marine species in the world could face extinction by 2100 because of this issue.” We were there learning to love our marine neighbors while we still can.
Over the course of the week, the Duke Marine lab staff let us try out drone flying (part of the research tracking marine life), participate in citizen science beach clean-ups and art projects, and look at marine invertebrates under the microscope. Our Blue Theology instructor, Gabrielle, led us in reflection, prayer, poetry writing, and postcard advocacy. She also took us to a labyrinth at St Francis by the Sea, and led us in a “church of the wild” service at Atlantic beach. I led some Bible studies, focusing mostly on Genesis 1-3. We visited an aquarium, took the ferry to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Island to visit the horses, and had a presentation about wetlands.
There was plenty of time for fun, too: karaoke, four-square, diving off the docks, hide and seek, dolphin watching, and more.
At the end of the week, students created prayers of the people for us to use – you can read them, and pray along with us, here.
When you see the teenagers at church, ask them to tell you more!
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