S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Coastal Heritage Curriculum Connection

Explore Curriculum Connection guides, which are written to accompany each issue of Coastal Heritage, a quarterly publication of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Coastal Heritage, Fall/Winter 2021 – Jewel of the Marsh: the Remarkable Diamondback Terrapin

Focus Questions

  • What habitat does the diamondback terrapin (DBT) live? What physical and/or behavioral adaptations do DBTs have that help it survive?
  • How are DBTs different than sea turtles? Freshwater turtles?
  • What are two major threats facing DBTs?
  • How does “headstarting” help DBTs? What are some other ways in which diamondback terrapins can be protected?

Use the Curriculum Connection to address these South Carolina Science Standards and Performance Indicators


  • K.L.2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of organisms found in the environment and how these organisms depend on the environment to meet those needs.

2nd Grade

  • 2.L.5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how the structures of animals help them survive and grow in their environments.

3rd Grade

  • 3.L.5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how the characteristics and changes in environments and habitats affect the diversity of organisms.

4th Grade

  • 4.L.5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how the structural characteristics and traits of plants and animals allow them to survive, grow, and reproduce.

5th Grade  

  • Standard 5.L.4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of relationships among biotic and abiotic factors within terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

7th Grade

  • Standard 7.E.C.5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how organisms interact with and respond to the biotic and abiotic components of their environments.

High School Biology

  • H.B.6: The student will demonstrate an understanding that ecosystems are complex, interactive systems that include both biological communities and physical components of the environment.

High School Earth Science

  • H.E.6A.5 Analyze and interpret data to describe how the quality of the water in drainage basins is influenced by natural and human factors (such as land use, domestic and industrial waste, weather/climate conditions, topography of the river channel, pollution, or flooding).

Lesson Links and Educational Resources

This issue of Coastal Heritage focuses on the diamondback terrapin (DBT) and includes information about its ecological role in the salt marsh ecosystem, challenges to their overall health and population, and conservation efforts. The following lesson links and educational resources expand on these subjects in order of appearance in this issue.

Salt Marsh Ecology Resources

Salt marsh ecosystems are being (and will continue to be) impacted by development, climate change, and natural hazards. Designed for use by both formal and nonformal educators, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium has a suite of lessons plans and resources designed to educate about this critical habitat. Visit the Consortium’s website to view lesson plans, activity guides, a field guide, videos, and other downloadable resources to learn more. (K-12)

NOAA Estuary Education Resources

To help educators incorporate estuarine topics in their curriculum, NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) created lessons and activities for all grade levels. With both general estuarine information as well as geographically-specific topics, these educational resources use hands-on learning, experiments, fieldwork, and data exploration to make estuary science exciting and relevant to your classroom. (K-12)

Diamondback Terrapins and Marine Debris

Marine debris has wide-ranging impacts on ecosystems, including entanglement and entrapment of air-breathing, aquatic organisms. Derelict or abandoned fishing gear, such as crab traps, continue to “fish”, oftentimes trapping and drowning DBTs, despite the fact that they can hold their breath for quite a while. To demonstrate the importance of minimizing marine debris, access the Educators Guide to Marine Debris for the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico for an interactive game designed to show how long a DBT can hold its breath. (K – 8)

Field Trip Opportunities

South Carolina Aquarium

See DBTs in person by visiting the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA) or scheduling an education program with your students! The SCA has a salt marsh exhibit where you can observe DBTs in their natural habitat, and they offer a variety of in-person and virtual outreach and education programs. Visit the SCA website today to book your program or to get information on general admission. (K – 12th)