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Coastfest goes virtual: Students can learn about shore, 4-pound toads

coastfest 2020 copy

By David Pendered

Georgia Coastfest 2020 offers two new components this year – it is virtual, as are so many events, and a new essay contest for students is to prompt them to think about Georgia’s coastline and what makes it unique.

This year’s Coastfest T-shirt features a sea turtle drawn by Meleah Lavarias, of Needwood Middle School, in Glynn County. Credit: coastalgadnr.org

The art contest of Coastfest is being continued and this year’s theme is, Our Marvelous Marshes. In addition, this year’s T-shirts are already available online and feature a mosaic sea turtle on the back of the shirt that was drawn by Meleah Lavarias, of Needwood Middle School, in Glynn County.

This is the event’s 26th year and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has lined up a series of live events on YouTube from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. The shows will be posted for viewing at later dates. Some schools may be using the Livestreams to teach students during the day, using materials teachers can download in advance.

The event is tailored for students in grades K-12, and anyone with an interest in matters related to Georgia’s coast. Topics that can be seriously educational for students are equally useful for adults in any game of trivia.

Giant Cane Toads, for example – a 4-pound toad is one that students can ask about.

giant cane toad

During this year’s Coastfest event, students can ask about giant cane toads, such as this 4-pound toad named Cookie. This year’s event is virtual, from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. Credit: georgiastem.com

Iguanas falling from trees, for instance – videos have gone viral of the lizards that doze off in the cold and forget to hold on to their perch.

The list of more topics to be covered includes:

  • Georgia’s research vessel is named Anna, to honor the mother of two brothers who built her in 1966 on the shore of the Mackay River in Glynn County, Johnny and Howard Wilson;
  • Georgia builds homes for fish and other aquatic life in two locations – offshore and inshore. Reefs in the ocean are made of heavy duty materials such clean Army tanks and old metal bridges. Inshore reefs are built in tidal areas of concrete structures;
  • Going green can be as simple as catching rainwater in a cistern and using it to water plants.

Shifting to a virtual program has represented a significant change for those who host the event.

For starters, the website makes a point to highlight the date and location of the 2021 event in the same paragraph that states how this year’s virtual event will work:

coastfest 2020

The 26th annual Coastfest event for students is virtual this year and includes a new program – an essay contest. Credit: coastalgadnr.org

  • “At this time, CoastFest 2021 is slated to be held in person on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in Brunswick. We look forward to getting back to normal and seeing everyone there!”

And there’s the introductory remark from Tyler Jones, of Georgia’s Coast Resources Division:

  • “For 26 years, we’ve looked forward to meeting our friends and neighbors from across the region at CoastFest. We’ve had to get creative to work around COVID-19 this year, and we’re excited to offer a virtual way to continue that tradition and provide an opportunity to peel back the curtain and show everyone what we do at Coastal Resources Division.”

The essay contest is one new entry intended to stir up interest among the students.

The event begins after Coastfest ends. That’s because the response to the question won’t be known until the event is complete.

The question is: What makes the Georgia Coast unique and what did I learn about it at Virtual CoastFest 2020?

Essays are to range in length from 400 words to 500 words. Awards will be given to first-, second-, and third-place finishers in elementary, middle and high schools. Home school students are welcome to participate. More information about the contest is available on this page of Coastfest’s website.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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