Coastal Basketry and Barrier Island Ecology

Explore the art of basketry alongside an award-winning instructor on historic Wallops Island. Plus, learn about island ecology and enjoy a traditional seafood feast!
Rating (5)
Program No. 20926RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Come to majestic Wallops Island to learn a craft that has been woven into indigenous basketry forms throughout the world with Chincoteague Bay Field Station. Coiled sea grass basketry reflects the beauty of the barrier island marshes, and you’ll learn to create your own in a small group setting with an award-winning instructor. In addition to learning basket weaving, gain a special appreciation through field trips and lectures for the island ecology and what’s being done to protect this fragile and ever-changing habitat.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to a mile on uneven ground.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Learn to sustainably gather spartina, cordgrass and other materials and then create two or three coiled sea grass and pine needle baskets from scratch.
  • Learn about the ecology of Wallops Island, a restricted-access beach owned by NASA, and Assateague Island, a national park and wildlife refuge.
  • Enjoy a traditional Chesapeake Bay boil, a family style, succulent seafood feast.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. ATTENTION FOREIGN NATIONALS: Part of this program takes place on Wallops Island, which is a restricted access NASA base. In order to participate in the Wallops Island activities, all foreign nationals must complete additional paperwork at least 6 weeks in advance to be allowed access onto the base. Access is then subject to approval by NASA Wallops Island base. If you are a foreign national enrolled in this program, please contact the program provider directly at julie@cbfieldstation.org to request the required forms.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Pamela Zimmerman
Pamela Zimmerman is a nationally renowned fiber artist whose contemporary works and horsehair miniatures have been showcased in galleries nationwide, receiving over 500 awards. For her distinct work, she was selected by the World Crafts Council, a division UNESCO to be listed as “North American Craftsman” in their Gallery of Fiber Arts in the US. Holding a BS in recreational programming from the University of Maryland, she has prepared and presented activities for all ages, working with zoos, libraries, schools, National Parks and more.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Pamela Zimmerman
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Once upon an island: The history of Chincoteague
by Kirk Mariner
This book is not just another collection of essays and sepia pictures about a local landmark or town. Kirk Mariner's review is a thoughtful and thorough history of a small island community - as thorough as one can be when natural history and the lack of written records affect the narrative as often as it does Chincoteague.
A Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore: From the Bay of Fundy to Cape Hatteras
by Kenneth L. Gosner
More than 1,000 illustrations, arranged according to visual similarities, show plant and animal species of the Atlantic Coast from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Hatteras. This guide includes information on how to locate each species by geographic range, tidal range, tidal level, season, topography, and climate.
Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
by William W. Warner
William Warner exhibits his skill as a naturalist and as a writer in this Pulitzer Prize-winning study of the pugnacious Atlantic blue crab and of its Chesapeake Bay territory. This wonderful work contains all you ever wanted to know about the life cycle of one particular kind of crab that lives in Chesapeake Bay (the kind you probably smashed with mallets if you ever went to that area). Surprisingly, for most of its life, the Atlantic blue crab has nothing to do with beer. Taking it for a focus, Warner draws connections with the sea, the rivers, the crab-friendly environment that produced such a wealth of the creatures, and then the people who live from that wealth, the islanders who lived isolated for centuries, but are now firmly within the web of modern life. Warner tells of the marketing of crabs, the catching of other Chesapeake products like oysters, and even of festivals like a Miss Crustacean contest ! You can learn about esoterica like crab pots, the Waterman's Union, the religious heritage of crabbers, and lots more.
Off 13: The Eastern Shore of Virginia Guidebook
by Kirk Mariner
Kirk Mariner's book "Off 13 - The Eastern Shore of Virginia Guidebook" offers a highly informative and entertaining guide to an overlooked but tranquil peninsula bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, not far from the Nation's Capital. Many people know of Chincoteague but may not be aware that the rest of the Virginia eastern shore is well worth exploring. "Off 13" is full of interesting anecdotes and historical information about the area and its many little towns as well as useful and practical information for travellers.
Assateague: Island of Wild Ponies
by Andrea Jauck and Larry Points
Children's Book- In a nature tour format, the authors portray the seasons of this famous island. They present facts about the area's ecology while focusing on the ponies. The tone is conversational, written in an informal style and defining equine terms in context. One or two full-color photos on each page show the animals in their habitat. Scenes show both the natural beauty of the island and the ponies in action, sometimes in humorous poses. Photos and text promote Assateague's wildness while cautioning readers about humankind's effects on the fragile environment. Suggest this as background for readers of Marguerite Henry's books, and as a supplement to Jack Scott's Island of Wild Horses
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge: An Ecological Treasure
by Irene Hinke-Sacilotto
Beautiful photos of Chincoteague National Wildlife: birds, ponies, sunsets. Not a lot of detailed information but it is a photography book primarily and nice to look at and dream of being there.
Chincoteague Revisited: A Sojourn to the Chincoteague and Assateague Islands (Hardcover)
by Dorothy Camagna and Jennifer Cording
Through Dorothy Camagna’s artful photography and Jennifer Cording’s essays, Chincoteague Revisited captures the essence of the community, ecology and the natural landscape of this unique place off Virginia’s coast. The first essay, "Community", welcomes readers to island life and to the islanders themselves—an uncommon culture of people who share a common bond. Local watermen, decoy carvers and shop owners ply their trade; visitors from everywhere transform the community in the spring; simple, whitewashed houses line Main Street, and the Channel Bass Inn bed and breakfast invites afternoon callers to tea. Townspeople and visitors enjoy the traditional Christmas parade and the tastes of the annual oyster festival. Chincoteague Island comes to life in poetry and pictures. The next essay, "Refuge", centers on the mystery and beauty of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge—its seashore, marshlands, maritime forests and wildlife. Through Camagna’s expert eye and Cording’s sensitive language, the sun sets on the loblolly pine, and the great egret takes its majestic flight towards Chincoteague Bay. The most famous inhabitants of Assateague Island, the wild ponies, also call the refuge home. Each July, local cowboys herd the ponies for their swim across the channel to Chincoteague’s shore, where the foals are auctioned at the annual Firemen’s Carnival. And finally, the essay titled "Transitions" focuses on the ecological and seasonal changes of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. "It is a delicate balance," writes Cording of the fragile combination of a beautiful natural landscape and thousands of human visitors who descend on the island each season. Chincoteague Revisited is a rare collection of over one hundred full color photographs with accompanying essays—from aerial shots of the coastline and barrier islands, to intimate portraits of the water, land and people that make Chincoteague Island a destination to be visited, revisited and remembered.
Misty of Chincoteague
by Marguerite Henry
On an island off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland lives a centuries-old band of wild ponies. Among them is the most mysterious of all, Phantom, a rarely seen mare that eludes all efforts to capture her--that is, until a young boy and girl lay eyes on her and determine that they can't live without her. The frenzied roundup that follows on the next "Pony Penning Day" does indeed bring Phantom into their lives, in a way they never would have suspected. Phantom would forever be a creature of the wild. But her gentle, loyal colt Misty is another story altogether. Marguerite Henry's Newbery Honor Book has captivated generations of boys and girls both with its thrilling descriptions of true incidents from the tiny island of Chincoteague, and its realistic yet wonderfully magical atmosphere. This story of an animal brought into captivity poignantly reveals the powerful opposing forces of humans and nature. Wesley Dennis's pen-and-ink ponies are masterfully depicted with rippling muscles, shaggy coats, and free spirits.
Voices of the Chincoteague: Memories of Greenbackville and Franklin City (VA)
by Martha A. Burns and Linda S. Hartsock
Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, people flocked to boom towns like Greenbackville and Franklin City on Virginia's remote Chincoteague Bay to cash in on the lucrative oyster trade. Most eventually settled for simple rural lives, living a cash and barter economy, commuting on foot or by boat, always closely tied to the tide and water. From mystery in the marsh to jealous lovers, these accounts of life on the Bay are filled with work boats, crab pots, and saltwater. About the Author As come eres newcomers to the Eastern Shore, authors Martha A. Burns and Linda S. Hartsock bring a fresh perspective to life on the Bay. They present here the memories of a vanishing way of life in rural America, largely in the words of those who lived it and worked it. Much of the language, insights, and emotion of the last century are here for all to read, coupled with the authors' observations and interpretations of their neighbors and the bay they call home.
Wallops Island (Images of America: Virginia) (Paperback)
by Nan Devincent Hayes and Bowen Bennett
Located in Accomack County on Virginiaís Eastern Shore, Wallops Island was once a primitive swath of land, uncivilized but by the wild ponies and mosquitoes that made its scrub-covered shores their home. But as the centuries passed, the wildness of the island was radically altered by the influx of colonists, then vacationers, and, eventually, some of the brightest scientific minds in the country. ÝÝThe history of Wallops Island has been one of transition. In the colonial period, John Wallop, an industrious man and self-made millionaire, was granted much of the islandís acreage by the English Crown for providing assistance to new colonists trying to reach Virginia. In 1889, Wallops Island was bought and converted into a vacation destination for a handful of wealthy families from Pennsylvania, who, in turn, sold the island to the federal government in the 1940s. Once in the hands of NASA the island was transformed into a center for the high-tech development of rockets, missiles, and the means for space travel. From weather balloons and Tiamat missiles to aerodynamics and hurricane research, the Wallops Island Flight Facility and its predecessors have been instrumental in the evolution and success of the American space program.

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