K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Rainbow Falls Spray Zone

Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations take you on "virtual field trips" across the state, from Jocassee Gorges (shown here) to the Outer Banks. (Photograph by Dirk Frankenberg. More about the photograph)

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Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations are virtual field trips to areas characterized by both beautiful scenery and useful lessons about North Carolina’s environment. Our state stretches from the Appalachian mountains to the sea. Along the way you can find rocks formed when the earth was only half as old as it is now, climate zones equivalent to those found near sea level from Georgia to Canada, and plants and animals as diverse as those of any state except California.

Each trip explores an important feature of North Carolina’s natural heritage. First, a question is posed — What is a wetland? How do hurricanes damage coastal infrastructure? Why is the Blue Ridge so biologically diverse? The question is then answered by exploring a particular location or locations — its natural history, geology, weather, and ecology, and how all of these factors interact to make the location unique. The field trips also examine how humans impact and are in turn impacted by these natural areas. With high-resolution photographs, narrative text, and glossaries, these virtual field trips offer an experience that’s the next best thing to exploring our state on foot with a scientist at your side!

Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations were originally developed in 1999 through a partnership of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Marine Sciences and LEARN NC. The new editions were published in 2005–2006.

The field trips

outer coastal plain, inner coastal plain, piedmont, and blue ridge provinces of North Carolina

Geologists divide North Carolina’s land into four provinces.

The field trips are organized by province (see the map, above).

Outer Coastal Plain Province

  1. The White Oak River: A Blackwater River from Sea to Source
  2. Cape Fear Estuaries: From River to Sea
  3. Hurricanes on Sandy Shorelines: Lessons for Development
  4. Small Sand Volume Barrier Islands: Environmental Processes and Development Risks
  5. Large Sand Volume Barrier Islands: Environmental Processes and Development Risks
  6. Coastal Processes and Human Impacts on the Northern Outer Banks
  7. Evidence of Sea Level Rise: Coastal Erosion and Plant Community Changes

Inner Coastal Plain Province

  1. Forests and Fires: The Longleaf Pine Savanna
  2. Wetlands of the Coastal Plains

Piedmont Province

  1. Lonely Mountains: The Monadnocks of the Inner Piedmont
  2. Clays of the Piedmont: Origins, Recovery, and Use

Blue Ridge Province

  1. Jocassee Gorges: Temperate Rain Forests of the Blue Ridge
  2. Elevation and Forest Types Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
  3. Roan Mountain Highlands: Rocks, Plants, and Preservation