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January 8, 2020: Dr. Gary Gates

Our own Dr, Gates spoke at Open Forum this week about the purpose of homework.  “Just between you and me,” he said, “I want you to realize why we teachers assign homework.” 

He began by telling us what homework is not: it is not a punishment, it is not a way to use up time, it is not even ultimately a way of getting permanent knowledge into your head.  “You read and take notes on math concepts you may never use again as an adult,” he said. “But learning specific information is not the final goal of homework.” 

Dr. Gates explained that the work teachers assign is intended to help students learn how to learn and learn how to pay attention for longer periods of time.  “These are the skills that will help you later in life,” he said.  Dr. Gates has analyzed his students’ scores on standardized testing over the past 20 years and the data shows an extremely strong correlation between students who do their work and those who improve their scores the most on standardized testing.  Moral of the story?  Doing your homework is good for you—now and for the rest of your life.

North Island 2019

North Island is a picturesque wilderness located only miles from the shores of Winyah Bay.  Over the years, it has played a significant part in the history of our community.  From the planned (and failed) Spanish colony by Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon in 1526, to the abandoned canal project of 1802, the island has always been a central part of South Carolina’s past.

Our seniors took a trip to the island this fall, and they were amazed by what they saw.  The boat pulled up next to an old, rotting dock, where several pieces were missing from the deck.  After climbing up the dock and onto shore, they got their first glimpse of the famous North Island lighthouse: an 85-foot structure made entirely of cut stone and brick.  At the base of the lighthouse is an old Coast Guard base, untouched since it was abandoned in the early 1980s.  After exploring the base, their tour guide, Mr Jim Lee, led students to the top of the lighthouse.

“The view was nice,”  Camille shared, “But the wasps were a bit much.  I don’t like wasps.”  After their time the lighthouse, the group headed back down to ground level.  There, their tour guide Mr Jim pulled out his compass and asked them if they would like to see the ocean.

“Keep up, slowpokes!”  Margaret teased the others as she, Ryleigh, and Mr Jim led the hike through the woods.  Far behind them, the others struggled to avoid thorny branches and dangling palm fronds as they made their way up the slope and across the island.  The hike took some time, but the end result was worth it: the trees gave way to towering dunes, which ended in a steep cliff just above the sandy beach.  After carefully negotiating their way down the slope, they settled down to eat their lunches.

The journey back was just as breathtaking.  From mounds of shells to towering forests of driftwood, the views were perfect.  It was easy to see why Lafayette, when he first landed on the island, called it DeBordieu, which translates to “the borderland of God.”  By the time the group reached the dock, everyone had collected more shells than they could carry.  It was an exciting adventure, and after a long day on the island, they were all ready to head home.  Thank you to Mr Jim and the Tom Yawkey Foundation for giving us this amazing opportunity.

By Ryleigh

12/11 Dr. Till J. J. Hanebuth

Dr Till J. J. Hanebuth works in the Geosystems Research Lab at Coastal Carolina University. He came to speak with our school about his research into coastal management. “We want to control our coastline,” he told the students. “What we build is stationary, while the coastlines change.” In an attempt to preserve our coastlines, there have been several beach nourishment projects. These involve scooping sand from the bottom of the ocean and transporting it to the beach to replace sand that has been washed away. However, this is not always the best solution. Apart from being very expensive, it can be very damaging to the ocean environment, and it is getting harder and harder to find areas with the right kind of sand. Beach nourishment is also not permanent, so it must be repeated again and again.

Dr Hanebuth’s most recent project revolves around Georgetown Harbor. In 1950, developers decided to create a “shortcut” into the harbor, cutting through the land to create what is now Goat Island. This made the harbor more accessible to boats, which was a great boost for the local economy. However, this shortcut changed the water currents in the bay, and over time the bottom of the harbor filled up with silt. It became so shallow that many ships could no longer enter the harbor. To fix this, the city has been forced to dredge the harbor repeatedly to allow ships to enter. Dredging is incredibly expensive and does not work as a long-term solution. Dr. Hanebuth’s job is to research the currents in the harbor and come up with a way to counteract this problem.

Dr. Hanebuth created a computer program that would simulate the tides and the currents in the harbor so that he could test potential solutions. The obvious solution would be to close off the shortcut, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research shows that this could have disastrous effects. With nowhere else for the water to go, it would flow through the harbor too quickly and wash away boats and docks, as well as potentially causing flooding. Another idea was to place two giant underwater “hairdryers” at the entrance to the harbor to direct water flow and wash away the silt. Right now, the most promising solution appears to be blocking off part of the shortcut, creating an increased flow in the harbor without the full force that would come from completely closing it.

“I am used to working with scientists,” Dr. Hanebuth told us. “But now I am working with city managers.” It remains to be seen how Georgetown will resolve the problem of its lost harbor, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research and computer models provide much-needed information to help Georgetown make a sensible plan of action.

12/04 Dr. Andrea Bergstrom

Dr Andrea Bergstrom, a professor at Coastal Carolina University, came to speak to our school about social media.  She got her PhD in communications at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2011.  Since then, she has been a researcher at CCU studying media and its effect on human behavior.  In the world of the internet, she warned students, there are three key points to remember: safety, privacy, and thinking critically.

Internet safety is more than just not meeting with strangers.  You should never give anyone your username or password, even if they’re your friend, because you never know what they could do with it.  “If somebody sends a mean message from your account, you can get in trouble for it.”  She warned students, sharing with them the story of a college student who was expelled after a friend used his account for nefarious purposes.  She also said that giving away any information about yourself- whether it’s your full name, your address, or even just a blurry picture- can lead to people tracking you down.  Even if you think you’re being careful, small clues can add up until someone knows exactly who you are and where you live.

Once you post something online, it never goes away.  “You don’t control your information anymore.” Dr Bergstrom explained.  “Even if you delete it, you never know who’s taken a screenshot.”  She warned students that their future depends on what they post online; from college admissions boards to potential employers, everyone has the power to do a background check.  As a general rule, she advised that “if you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, you shouldn’t post it.”

“Have you ever looked something up or liked a post, and then the next day you see an ad for that exact same thing?”  She asked the students, and almost everyone nodded.  “You’re like, ‘whoah, it’s magic!’  Nope, it’s capitalism.”  She explained how websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, can share your search history with potential advertisers.  If you buy something that’s been advertised to you, such as from a sponsored post, you never know who is benefiting from your money.  Despite her warnings, Dr Bergstrom acknowledged that the internet can be a very useful tool- so long as you’re careful.

By Ryleigh

11/20: Dr. Stephanie Southworh

“Good and positive always outweigh the bad,” said Dr. Stephanie Southworth to our students on November 20th. Dr. Southworth, a Coastal Carolina University sociology professor, came to speak to us on her new program to help the homeless in Myrtle Beach get transportation to jobs and affordable housing.

Dr. Southworth grew up in a middle-class family in California.  While raising her own family and getting her master’s and PhD in social behaviors, she never knew the true need of homeless people. It was not until Dr. Southworth moved to SC and did an experiment with her students that she truly understood. She had her students ask homeless people what they needed the most.  Most people told them that they really needed transportation and mental health care. This sparked an idea for Dr. Southworth. She started a program at a men’s homeless shelter allowing residents to use bikes for transportation.

Dr. Southworth explained, “These bikes are just like library books. You can rent them out then bring them back for others to enjoy.” This project is in its second year of operation and is doing extremely well, helping the homeless as well as her students volunteers, the faculty, and shelter workers. One student asked her how they can trust the homeless people to bring the bikes back.  Dr. Southworth’s answered, “We can’t! We just have to trust and the more experience that we have with them the more trust is built.” One experience that Dr. Southworth highlighted was a former homeless shelter resident who came up to her and said “Bike 49 saved my life. When I got frustrated or mad, I could use the bike to get away from here.”

We truly thank Dr. Stephanie Southworth for taking the time to educate our students on the importance of helping your community and doing something to benefit others. 

By Margaret

11/13 – Judy Sweitzer

“We all have a gift to give,” said Mrs. Judy Sweitzer, who came to tell us about her recent mission trip to Guatemala.  Mrs. Sweitzer’s gift was spending two weeks helping with medical and dental problems in the small village of Zapato, an annual visit sponsored by her church, Pawleys Island Christian.

Mrs. Sweitzer told us that life in Guatemala is hard.  The country has seen explosive population growth—400% in the past fifty years.  About half of Guatemalans don’t have clean water and 57% live below the poverty line on $2 a day.  One in fifteen children dies before age five; children who survive most likely will not attend school, with the result that 60% of Guatemalans cannot read.

Mrs. Sweitzer and her team spend most of their time dealing with a stream of villagers who do not have access to dental care.  The dentists administered local anesthesia and pulled teeth; Mrs. Sweitzer sterilized instruments, applied fluoride to children’s teeth, and passed out toothbrushes, “Can you imagine if you had an infected tooth and the dentist was only around once in the fall?” she asked us.

The dental team had time to enjoy Guatemala’s rich culture and landscape.  Mrs. Sweitzer explained that Zapato is close to an active volcano called Fuego, which rumbled, sent up smoke, and even gushed some lava while they were there.  “It was pretty amazing,” she said.  Mrs. Sweitzer encouraged us to give of ourselves to help others.  “You will be more enriched by the experience than the people you give to,” she promised.

By Fisher

10/23/19 – Patricia Devine-Harms

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Patricia Devine-Harms, owner and operator of the Purr & Pour Cat Café on Front Street, was our guest speaker on October 23. Patricia moved to Georgetown from New Jersey several years ago with her husband Steve, but did not leave behind the commitment to advocacy which has always been her passion. In N. J., she helped victims of domestic violence, troubled teens, and fought against human trafficking.  Once she got settled in Georgetown, she decided to help St. Frances Animal Shelter by opening the Purr & Pour Cat Café.

Cat cafés redefine the whole cat adoption process and make it a pleasant experience.  Patrons can interact with the kitties in a clean and quiet setting; there are no cages and no pressure.  Patricia did not enter into this business lightly.  She visited many cat cafés, contacted their owners for information, and studied their websites. Inspired, she chose Front Street as the perfect place to open her very own Cat Café.  Kingfishers were interested to learn that the Purr & Pour is not a non-profit.  Patricia did not want to compete in any way with St. Frances—all adoption fees go right back to the charity.  To date, the Purr & Pour has placed 24 cats into loving homes since opening in June.  “We measure success by adoptions,” she said.  “It’s not about making a profit, but making a difference.”  Cat cafés around the U.S. have created opportunities for over 16,000 cat adoptions in the last five years!

Patricia emphasized that cooperation and collaboration are key components in creating a successful business. She is cooperating with Indigo Bakery, and Coffee Break Café to supply sandwiches and coffee to the customers. She is supported by people in the community.  And cat cafés are a beautiful collaboration between people and animals: they not only provide a safe space for people to relax and relieve stress, but they also create a safe haven for cats to live and be introduced to people.

By T. J.