Environmental Education (EE)

The North Carolina Maritime Museum is a state museum operating under the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. The educational mission of the museum is to interpret all aspects of the state’s diverse coastal natural history and rich maritime heritage and to address environmental issues and solutions through exhibits, in-house and outreach programs, field trips, and publications.

Programs and Site Features

The North Carolina Maritime Museum environmental education programs serve the general public through tours, programs, field trips, Summer Science School, and special events and are listed in a calendar published quarterly. Environmental education services provided to school, civic, and special needs groups include museum tours, hands-on programs, videos and slide presentations, staff led field trips to local coastal habitats, and programs at the overnight facilities at the museum’s Cape Lookout field station. 

Educational Services

Educational services are offered to school, civic, and special needs groups. They include tours (self-guided and guided), hands-on live animal programs, audio-visual programs, and field trips. Curators give lectures, consult with, and participate in programs offered by the community and schools. Teachers and group leaders should request the Educational Services Guide

The North Carolina Maritime Museum is located just off the Intracoastal Waterway and Interstate 70 on the historic Beaufort waterfront. Nearby natural areas include the Rachel Carson Reserve, Newport River marshes, Fort Macon State Park, Croatan National Forest, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and the nature trail at the Museums’ Gallants Channel Annex.

Public education programs scheduled on the calendar:

  • Beaufort walking tours
  • Bird watching–Coastal North Carolina and beyond
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Cape Lookout National Seashore: Shackleford and Core Banks
  • Croatan National Forest–carnivorous plants, nature trails
  • Fossil Hunting
  • International eco tours
  • Lecture Series on environmental topics
  • Marine Life Collecting Cruise
  • Nature tours of various sites–national forest trails, national wildlife refuges
  • Rachel Carson Reserve
  • Salt Marsh

Staff-led Programs and Field Trips for Schools, Teachers, and Special Interest Groups

In-museum/outreach programs:

  • Live Animal Program
  • Coastal Birds and Their Habitats
  • Marsh Metaphors
  • Insect-Eating Plants
  • Fingerprints of Trees
  • Marine Mammals
  • Sea Turtles
  • Coastal Fossils and Geological History
  • Endangered Species-Endangered habitats
  • Exploring Ecosystems
  • Global Environmental Issues
  • Barrier Island Ecology
  • Mysterious Mushrooms
  • Edible Wild Plants
  • Wildflowers and Carnivorous Plants

Field Trips:

  • Rachel Carson Reserve
  • Salt Marsh
  • Tidal Flat
  • Croatan National Forest
  • Marine Life Collecting Cruise – Trawling and Dredging

Summer Science School for Children (grades 1 – 9) – classes are listed in the annual brochure available each April for summer courses in coastal ecology and maritime topics.

Cape Lookout Studies Program  – environmental education at the museum’s field station at Cape Lookout provides overnight accommodations.

Discovery Carts – informal hands-on discussions.

Discovery Time – One afternoon each week during the summer activities and crafts for children focus on an environmental and cultural theme.

EE Programs and Activities that come to you:

  • Outreach Programs — Schools and special interest groups
  • Teacher Workshops
  • Special event exhibits and activities

EE Opportunities for Teachers:

  • Public calendar programs help teachers reinforce their coastal ecology knowledge
  • Coastal ecology workshops
  • Saltwater aquarium workshops
  • Seafood workshops

EE Publications available through the museum store:

  • A Guide to Ocean Dune Plants
  • A Guide to Salt Marsh Plants
  • Seacoast Life
  • Discover Maritime North Carolina

EE Environmental education booklets for grades K – 10 written by the Carteret County Marine Science Project and available as photocopies (for the cost of the photocopying) from the museum’s education staff:

  • Tidal Flat Town (K-3)
  • Treasure Hunt of the Sound (3-5)
  • Salt Marsh, Sound, and Sea Beach (6-8)
  • Man and the Sea (6)

A Field Approach to Coastal Ecology (9-10)


Each department of the museum has its followers and supporters. We encourage you to look through the current projects going on at the museum and decide which one is meaningful to you…

Collections Projects

Down Into the Depths
We are installing two new permanent exhibits in the main hall. “Down into the Depths” explores the subject of deep-sea diving, while the other tells the story of duck hunting through a display of part of the museum’s collection of decoys—an array that will change periodically so that visitors may enjoy their variety.

Initially, both exhibits will rely on loaned objects for part of their impact. While we do not anticipate an abrupt end to either loan period, we would prefer to replace these objects with items that belong to the museum, and are looking to our Friends for support.

Immediate needs for the two exhibits are:

A hard hat (or helmet-type) dive suit $6,000.00
Duck hunting paraphernalia (punt gun, ammunition boxes, etc.)  2,000.00

Watercraft Center Projects 

1. Rebuilding a 21’ Barbour inboard runabout
This runabout is North Carolina’s own Riva – fast, elegant and luxurious! When completed, it will become the prototype for the water taxis that will link downtown Beaufort with the museum’s Gallants Channel site. It requires completion of its structural rebuild and a new diesel engine.

2. Rebuilding the 42’ Barbour motoryacht “Stardust”
Barbour Boat Works built “Stardust” as Mr. R.R. Rivenbark’s personal motoryacht. Its elegant lines, gleaming white paint and varnished mahogany made it the pinnacle of the company’s products. “Stardust” was damaged by hurricanes before becoming part of the museum’s collection. We will rebuild the superstructure, refit the interior and install new diesel engines. Once restored, “Stardust” will become a splendid floating ambassador for North Carolina’s maritime heritage and the museum system.

3. The Nola Dare Project
“Nola Dare” was built in 1949 by Brady Lewis at Harkers Island. This 32-foot round stern fishing vessel is a very early example of a vessel with the famous “Harkers Island Flare Bow.”

After strenuous service in the commercial fishery and as a charter boat, “Nola Dare’s” condition has deteriorated to the point that restoration for further service would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, we have thoroughly documented “Nola Dare”, taking off the hull lines and recording its structure, so we can build a new “Nola Dare”.

The new vessel will faithfully duplicate “Nola Dare’s” original external appearance but will conform to all current US Coast Guard standards and will be powered using more environmentally friendly electric motors. The new boat also will duplicate the original construction methods so that its creation will serve as an effective education in traditional boatbuilding and celebrate the heritage of Harkers Island and its world-famous boat builders.

Children’s Summer Classes

Summer Classes for children are held each June through August.Contact the museum for brochures and applications.  We do not take reservations for classes, programs, or field trips by email.

The Junior Sailing Program, sponsored by the Friends of the Museum, is for ages 8-15. The program teaches seamanship, navigation, boating safety, and sailing techniques to beginning and intermediate sailors. Students sail International Optimist Dinghies or Vanguards during the two-week sessions and final Regatta Week.

Summer Science School for Children is designed for entering 1st-10th graders to investigate the coastal environment and maritime history of NC. Day classes range from pirates, boat models and mariners, underwater archaeology, seashore life, fishing, fossils, kayaking, surfing, to saltwater science. Overnight classes on barrier island wildlife and sea turtles are offered at Cape Lookout. 

Museum Treasure Hunt

A Teacher-Led-Tour of the North Carolina Maritime Museum

  • Use the Museum Treasure Hunt to explore North Carolina’s natural and maritime heritage. Take a few minutes to explore each exhibit, and then ask the group these questions. 
  • Groups must be divided into smaller groups of ten or fewer students and assigned a chaperone to discuss the questions. Each small group may start at any exhibit, but must stay together while in the museum.


  • These are models of real fish–life-size and life-like. What are other kinds of models you know about?
  • What fish do you see that you have caught? read about? learned about? 
  • Which is the most interesting fish you see? 
  • Even though two animals here are called a dolphin, how are they different?
  • Describe similarities and differences between a sea turtle and a land turtle—their shells, where they spend their life, how their feet differ, where they lay eggs? 
  • What are some items found on the shipwreck believed to be Blackbeard’s flagship (the ship that carries the fleet commander and bears his flag)? 
  • What are some problems created when we throw trash into the water?

Exhibit Hall


  • What kinds of fossil animals are found in coastal North Carolina?
  • Find the name of one invertebrate, one marine vertebrate, and one land animal.

N.C. Working Watercraft

  • What types of boats were used in North Carolina waters in the 1700s and 1800s? 
  • What were some uses for boats before the 1900s? 
  • How are boats used today? 
  • What is the North Carolina state boat? 
  • Note the construction of the Core Sound Sharpie suspended from the ceiling.

Commercial Fishing

  • Whaling was a means of making money along the barrier islands of North Carolina from the 1600s through the early 1900s. What two products were made from or taken from whales. 
  • What fishing industries were part of North Carolina’s commercial fishing history of the 1800s? 
  • Point out some of different methods and equipment fishermen use to catch fish? 
  • What kind of boats and nets are used to catch shrimp?
  • Find the purse boats on the large menhaden fishing boat model. These boats put out the net, surround the fish, then pull the school together like the drawstring of a purse.  What products were made from the menhaden?

Waterfowl Decoys of North Carolina (exhibit in progress)

  • Find three different types of waterfowl hunted in eastern North Carolina.
  • Where do these birds spend the summer? Winter?

Down to the Depths (exhibit in progress)

  • What was this bell used for? Where?
  • How were deep sea diving suits used? Where did their air supply come from?

Venomous snakes

  • What types of poisonous snakes are found in eastern North Carolina?
  • Note the habitats where each lives and what each snake eats.

Coastal Marine Life (due to budget cuts aquariums are temporarily shut down)

  • Name several kinds of fish that you find in the aquariums and exhibits. 
  • Find the animals that live in a shell? 
  • Find two ways animals can protect themselves with colors and patterns. 
  • Fouling organisms are those that attach to a hard surface. Name two places where animals and plants can find a hard surface in the water. 
  • Can you find two animals that burrow for protection? 
  • Find an animal that is camouflaged to capture prey (food) or hide from enemies (predators).
  • What are some ways a bird is adapted to its environment? 
  • What are some threats to coastal waters from upstream activities? 
  • What is one way that seaweeds protect themselves from being eaten by fish? 
  • NC has a great variety of beautiful shells. What are some ways these shells can be grouped?
  • Name two mollusks that lay egg cases?

Throw away the Oars – Outboard Motors

  • How are the motors arranged? 
  • What are some items in the workshop that tell you it is not from the 1800s? 
  • Do you think it is a working shop of today? What are your reasons? 
  • The Silver Clipper was one of the first types of motorboats used just for enjoyment. What are some boats used today for recreation?

Solders of Surf and Storm—Lighthouses & Lifesaving

  • Find the lighthouse lens and count how many pieces of angled glass make up the light. Why do you think it is built this way? How far away could this light be seen?
  • What were some responsibilities of lighthouse keepers? 
  • What are some ways that people were rescued from ships and brought to shore in the late 1800s? 
  • Name some ways people are rescued and brought to safety from ships in distress at sea today?


  • Do you know an important star that is used for navigation?
  • What is the name of the instrument used for navigation by the stars?
  • What imaginary lines on the earth are used for navigation?