On February 22-23, Gulf Shores City Schools partnered with Dune Doctors and Gulf State Park Naturalists to host a Planting for Protection (P4P) Event for 185 students to install roughly 4,000 native dune-building plants and initiate a new row of coastal dunes along the Gulf State Park, AL. Planting for Protection is an educational initiative designed by Dune Doctors to promote coastal resiliency through community-based dune restoration.
Teachers from the Gulf Shores High School Sustainability Program incorporated the Planting for Protection (P4P) events into their spring semester lecture series. To help enhance the curriculum, Dune Doctors provided them with professional training on the different man-made and natural threats that contribute to coastal erosion. Leading up to the event, the teachers nominated 39 students to be P4P Mentors. Dune Doctors and Gulf State Park Naturalists trained the mentors in the installation of native vegetation. The P4P Mentors then taught the 5th-graders how to plant.
What did Students do at the Planting for Protection Event?
Before each planting session, the students attended three classes on native coastal plants, dune wildlife, and dune development. The classes were taught by Cory Powell a Gulf State Park Naturalist, Kelly Reetz the Resource Manager for the Gulf State Park, and Frederique Beroset the CEO of Dune Doctors. The P4P mentors then mobilized their 5th-graders to install the vegetation. The students worked with various native plants including sea oats, panic grass, sea purslane, beach elder, and red morning glory.
What do the Students who Participated Have to Say?
Aiden, a 5th Grader, said his favorite part was digging holes with the shovels. His classmate Briley said her favorite part was working with the gel (the gel is an environmentally-compliant method of providing newly installed vegetation with the moisture necessary to establish in sand). Both students stressed that their biggest takeaway was learning about the damaging effect of foot traffic. Briley wants everyone to “stick to boardwalks” because footpaths that cut through dunes “create pathways for storm water to reach the city.”
Jessie, a horticulture student and P4P Mentor, said this event benefitted her group because they learned the kind of work that goes into restoring their local dune ecosystems. Another P4P mentor had a clear message for the city of Gulf Shores. Kevin, a Student Ambassador with Gulf Shores City Schools, said, “these dunes are vital for the survival and health of the community along the coastline. Any opportunity the city of Gulf Shores has to restore these dunes would be widely beneficial to everyone.”
How Does this Planting for Protection Event Benefit the Community of Gulf Shores, Alabama?
The overarching goal for the event was to help kids develop a sense of ownership over the dune environment, expose the P4P mentors to professionals in the Green Industry, and provide the P4P mentors with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills. Jessica Sampley, the school’s Academies and Carrier Coordinator, expressed her excitement at how well the event came together and urged other schools to seize the opportunity to host one too. She said, “our goal is to educate kids who can then, hopefully, educate others to participate in preserving our local environment.” Johanna Gertsch, a Gulf State Park Naturalist, said the P4P restoration will help increase the park’s natural protective dune systems, offering greater protection for the ecosystems and communities landward of the dunes.
What is a Planting for Protection Event?
Planting for Protection (P4P) is Dune Doctors’ educational initiative designed to promote coastal resiliency through hands-on dune restoration. With over 22 years of experience, our coastal restoration experts share their expertise with students to help educate the next generation of coastal stewards. Dune Doctors organizes Planting for Protection events through partnerships with Homeowner Associations, Schools, Government Organizations, NGO’s, and other communities. Should you want to bring a P4P event to your community, please reach our team through our Contact Us form.