Dune's Island_Ep4_Vern the Tern

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Here's the fourth episode of my environmental learning series. It aims to teach coastal science concepts in a really fun way through characters and stories. I'm trying to get feedback to see what works and what can be improved.


Upon returning from a weekend kayak trip, Mouth discovers that her favorite tern, Vern, was released back into the wild. Heartbroken that she didn't get to say goodbye to her feathered friend, she and Dune embark into the world of shorebirds and attempt to spot Vern before he flies away with his flock.


I've included the video as a supporting document so you can download it and share it with your students offline. :-)

You an also download it freely here: https://vimeo.com/333805018


-Royal Tern identification.

-Why monitoring water quality in the lagoon is important.

-Science Centers, like the Marine Science Center, sometimes have bird sanctuaries where injured birds can recover before being released into the wild.

-People who take care of wild animals that are injured have to be careful to avoid becoming emotionally attached to them.

-Birds migrate thousands of miles and use the island as a place to rest.

-People shouldn’t get too close to resting birds.

-Gull identification.

-How gulls “take a bath.”

-Sanderling identification.

-Ruddy Turnstone identification.

-Scientists sometimes fit birds with metal identification bands on their lower legs.

-Pelican identification.

-Least Tern identification and fishing techniques.

-Birds often get tangled in fishing line.

-How to properly discard used fishing line.

-How and why pelicans preen.

-Great Blue Heron identification.

-Sand color is not the same on all beaches.

-The importance of “giving shorebirds their space.”


"Dune's Island" is an environmental learning series that I've created in association with the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida. The series, which so far consists of five episodes, aspires to reconnect children with the natural world through the gently humorous adventures of 16-year-old Dune (a junior naturalist and student mentor) and her new pupils, Jordi and Mouth, a couple of city kids visiting for the summer. With the help of Mr. Binnacle, an educator at the Science Center, the kids solve mysteries, protect endangered species and learn to become stewards of the island.

I'm an instructor who teaches film production and I've been passionate about the natural sciences for a very long time. A few years ago, I discovered the Marine Science Center on the Florida coast and thought it would make a wonderful setting for an educational series that could be used in classrooms as well as at the Science Center. The Manager and the Director of Education welcomed the idea and we were off and running with the project.

We cast some very talented thespians from the local high schools (most of whom had never acted in a film, but you would never know it) as well as from various theater groups in the area. The project has also provided my students the opportunity to gain real-world experience working as crew members. Since everyone participating was a volunteer, we had to film the episodes around school and work schedules rather than all at once, as is normally done. Over the course of a couple of years, we created five episodes.

A team of teachers from Volusia County Schools has since written their own custom curriculum to support the films and are now using it in their classrooms. This has inspired us to begin creating our own activities and curriculum based on the Common Core Standards which we will be making available here.

Since this is an ongoing project that is constantly evolving...(we are filming brand new episodes this summer)...any and all constructive feedback is very welcome and much appreciated.

I sincerely hope that "Dune's Island" will be helpful in your classroom! :-)


If you found this episode to be helpful, please consider making a donation. I pay for these films pretty much out-of-pocket so donations help a lot. You can donate on my website:


Thank you!

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Eric Matyas

Eric Matyas

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