Turtle tales

Honors College writing class promotes environmental advocacy

What do you get when you combine a passion for the environment and a desire to learn? An Honors College English class where students study renowned British and American writers and work with a nonprofit to protect species of turtles that are endangered or extinct in the wild.

“I wanted students to learn about how they could use their writing and communications skills to do good things for the environment and for other causes they care about,” said Paula Feldman, who holds the C. Wallace Martin Chair in English. “My students blew me away with their environmental advocacy project, and I’m so proud of all they accomplished and learned in this class.”

The 17 students studied authors such as Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau and Charles Darwin who wrote about the environment. They also visited the Turtle Survival Center in rural South Carolina and adopted its cause as the advocacy project. The center is part of the Turtle Survival Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming a passion for turtles into effective conservation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs.

Isabella Minson, a sophomore honors student, was enthusiastic about the advocacy outreach effort. 

The class divided into teams to make the project come to life: an “Adopt-a-Turtle” fundraiser team, a social media campaign team, a history team and a silent auction team. For one month the teams worked hand-in-hand on the turtle advocacy project.

 By the end of the semester, the class created a three-month social media plan, developed a written history of the center and its founder, designed an “Adopt-a-Turtle” campaign and held a silent auction and percentage night at a local restaurant that raised $500 in donations for the Turtle Survival Alliance.

“I am so proud of what we accomplished. I'd never thought I could raise so much money for an organization in such a short period of time,” says Minson, a Charleston native who grew up on the Cape Roman Wildlife Refuge. “My parents always have emphasized being kind to the environment because that is what sustains us and makes our home so beautiful, and this class was an amazing opportunity to make a difference.”

To learn more about the Turtle Survival Alliance or to volunteer, visit the Alliance's website.

Feldman’s class is example of the unique courses that have helped earn the South Carolina Honors College the distinction of being among the best in the nation. Honors College students interested in taking Feldman’s SCHC 354 Proseminar in Nature Writing can email her at feldmanp@mailbox.sc.edu

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