Coastal Communities

The Don Lee Center Coastal Communities Environmental Education Program introduces students to the wonders of nature and outdoor discovery through unique learning opportunities. Located along the banks of the Neuse River Estuary, Don Lee offers a variety of hands-on, interactive educational programs and team-building experiences for students of all ages during the school year. Removed from the distractions of everyday life, groups of 15 to 200 students are welcome to spend up to a week exploring the natural world in this ideal coastal setting.

Our knowledgeable educators assist the students in making connections between school work and life outside the classroom. With program options in the core areas of Science, Social Studies, History and Geography teachers may choose from a variety of activities. Each of the activities offered at Don Lee follows the State Curriculum Guidelines, allowing for an unforgettable custom field trip that meets the needs of the NC Common Core and Essential Standards.


Coastal Birds: Use binoculars to experience the variety of bird life while also learning about special adaptations of birds along the river, near the creek and in the forest

Coastal Soil Ecology: Sample, analyze, compare and contrast soil types from the areas around the river, creek and forest

Creatures of the Neuse: Explore the interconnectedness of coastal animals, track the wildlife and “pull” plaster casts of river fauna

Creeping Crawlers: Discover the diversity of insects and arachnids using nets and creature catchers

Fantastic Fish: Learn about the biological and ecological adaptations of fish as well the anatomy through dissection

Forest Ecology: Explore the biodiversity of coastal woodlands, forest succession and the importance of decaying matter; learn basic plant taxonomy and tree i.d.

Herpetology: Learn the basics of reptile and amphibian biology; handle and observe live specimen such as turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs

Man and the Neuse River: How do we impact the river and surrounding environment? How can one person help? Test water quality and explore the environmental issues surrounding the river

Neuse River Marine Invertebrates: Learn about the diversity of invertebrates in NC waters and examine the internal and external anatomy of a squid through dissection

Plankton Study: Use microscopes and plankton collection tows to learn the vital role of plankton in aquatic systems

Pond Study: Learn the components of freshwater food webs and explore pond species by collecting from our onsite pond

Neuse River Study: Investigate native species of the river through collection using seine, cast and dip nets and gain better knowledge of watershed concepts

Tidal Creek Study: Canoe through tidal marshes and waterways collecting species with dip nets


Maps and Charts Navigation: Learn compass skills and map reading techniques, as well as participating in an on-site orienteering course while developing navigational skills

Weather: On-site weather stations enable students to record current weather conditions and learn how geography affects weather patterns

Social Studies

Coastal Seafood: Sample NC seafood and learn the significance of the organisms on your plate
(additional fee required)

Fishing: Learn the historic and economic importance of fishing in NC, while going fishing in the river and creek

Fossils: Become a paleontologist through a simulated fossil dig and explore history through these fossilized records

Traditional Transportation: Sail on a Flying Scot and learn the historic importance of transportation along the coast (additional fee required)


Coastal Folklore: Surround a campfire and hear local stories to understand the cultural significance of folklore

Native Americans: Explore coastal NC tribes and their relationship with nature and the river, as well as how they influence our current culture

Pirates: Experience life as a pirate living and hiding out on the NC coast through a pirate simulations game, the pirate code of ethics (can be combined with sailing for additional fee)

Settlers: Go back in time to the early 1700s to experience life as a coastal NC settler

Daytime activities (overnight groups only)

Arts & Crafts: Students make and take their own coastal inspired t-shirts through the art of fish printing. This involves painting several rubber fish or sea creatures and pressing onto their shirt. Students must bring their own white t-shirt.

Night Activities (overnight groups only)

Night Nature: Night hikes and activities introduce students to the nocturnal world, and the adaptations of animals surviving in darkness

Stars and Constellations: Explore the history of constellations and use star guides and telescopes to learn about the night sky

Coastal Folklore:
Surround a campfire and hear local stories to understand the cultural significance of folklore

Students split up into small groups and perform skits based on their time at Don Lee. It is a fun and silly way for the students to reflect back on what they learned and the memories made.

Able to accommodate about 15 people at a time, our Hayride, pulled by a tractor, will take a group down along the river after dinner. This is a great time for the students to sing, talk and bond.  Dolphin, beautiful sunsets and fireflies have all been spotted on the Hayride!

Classes Offered
Off-site Expeditions (school provides transportation)

Beach Study: Explore beach and ocean ecology; learn about sea turtles, maritime forests, barrier island ecology and adaptations of seaside flora and fauna

Salt Marsh Study: Actively explore the salt marsh and discover the vital role it plays in the economic and biological aspects of life, students will search for signs of life and learn about distribution in a marsh

Other Options

Archery: Learn and practice the basics of using a recurved bow and arrow

Challenge Course: Work together to build relationships and have fun on a low element challenge course

How many programs can we choose?

Day Group: Will depend on arrival and departure times (about 1 activity per hour plus 45 minutes for lunch).

2 days / 1 night: Maximum of 7 daytime programs and 1 night program.

3 days / 2 night: Maximum of 14 daytime programs and 2 night program.

4 days / 3 night: Maximum of 21 daytime programs and 3 night program.

5 days / 4 nights: Maximum of 28 daytime programs and 4 night program.


1 day / 1 meal (optional)

2 day / 1 night / 3 meals

3 day / 2 night / 6 meals

4 day / 3 night / 9 meals

5 day / 4 night / 12 meals

Max # of Program Options

dependent on arrival/departure

7 day / 1 night

14 day / 2 night

21 day / 3 night

28 day / 4 night

Cost Per Students

$15 (+$10 lunch)





Cost Per Adult

(+$10 lunch)





Cost Per Teacher

(+$10 lunch)





Additional Options:

Traditional Transportation - $3.00 / person * This activity is weather dependent and not guaranteed

Coastal Seafood - $3.00 / person

Extra Meal - $10.00 / person

How Do I Sign Up?

  1. Get approval from the appropriate school officials and pick a few dates your group could attend.
  2. Determine the number of students that will attend the field trip.
  3. Call the Environmental Education Coordinator with information to begin the registration process.

A deposit and signed contract will be required to confirm and hold your group reservation.

For more information about our School Programs, contact:

Katie Lilly
Environmental Education Director
Phone: 252-249-1106 ext. 32
School Programs
Don Lee Camp & Retreat Center
315 Camp Don Lee Road
Arapahoe, NC 28510