Lois Lewis

Hear Me Roar


March 2022 Issue
Photography by Cassidy Dunn Photography

Hometown: Born & raised in Adrian and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Current Town:
Since 2008 Sun City. Hilton Head Island from 1985 to 2008.
Teacher— part-time since 2019 for Beaufort Co Adult Ed.
1985 – 2015 Middle School Science & French in Beaufort Co.
1976 – 1985 Charleston, SC, Mountain City, TN, Boone, NC.

You taught middle school science for 33 years in Beaufort County. What did you love most about teaching?
I love the kids and especially getting outdoors with them. It fires me up when they respond with genuine enthusiasm and curiosity for the natural world. Middle schoolers are a special sort of human. Most of them are concerned with what is “fair or not fair.” They are usually willing to be involved in making things better. If you can tap into that energy for justice there is no stopping them!

Even in retirement you are still helping people learn. Tell us how you are still utilizing your teaching skills:
I teach part-time for Beaufort County Adult Education, working with adults to complete their high school equivalency degrees. I also provide volunteer support for local outdoor education programs like the Kids in Kayaks program sponsored by The Outside Foundation, field trips at Port Royal Sound Foundation’s Maritime Center, and in local schools as a representative for Hilton Head Audubon Society. After doing something for a lifetime, you get good at it. I find I can use my teaching skills to promote ideals I believe in, including lifelong learning and the preservation of our precious natural world.

As a teacher, and now as a volunteer, you emphasize field trips for students. Tell us why they are so important: If you can connect new learning to the real world, it sticks better. When you can see ways to use new observations, it sparks your curiosity and motivates further learning. Field trips take students out of their isolated classrooms and open their minds to fresh approaches. These experiences provide connections to everyday life that allow students to remember and apply new information.

What is your most memorable moment or greatest accomplishment so far?
I believe I am most fulfilled by the diverse relationships I have developed with so many wonderful people—students and parents who have become friends, even role-models; people who worked with me “in the trenches” who are now like family; bonds with people that go back generations. These relationships enriched my life and hold deep meaning for me.

You are on the board of directors for Hilton Head Island Audubon Society. Tell us what they do and why you enjoy being a part of it.
Birdwatchers and nature-lovers make up Hilton Head Island Audubon Society. I love being outdoors with this group. I have learned a great deal by participating in field trips with Audubon experts. Some of my favorite activities are the annual bird counts in December and February when we become field scientists who contribute to crucial data that keep track of bird species all over our planet.
Our program committee organizes monthly speakers and presentations on a myriad of important issues that affect the natural world. A recent HHI Audubon accomplishment is shepherding the installation of a Motus receiver that can track banded migrating birds as they fly near our island. We maintain The Newhall Preserve as a nature conservancy, open to the public for peaceful walks, or observation of native flora and fauna. We have helped to save sensitive natural areas like nearby Bay Point Island from development. Our volunteers lead nature hikes and sponsor outdoor education programs in local schools. In fact, we accomplish these good deeds as an all-volunteer organization. HHI Audubon Society collaborates with other conservation-minded organizations like state and national Audubon groups, Port Royal Sound Maritime Center, The Outside Foundation, and Coastal Discovery Museum on a variety of projects from public-service beach signage to Family Fun Day. These efforts make our community better by promoting an appreciation of nature and wise stewardship of our beautiful and fragile Lowcountry ecosystems.

You are an avid birdwatcher. What is it about birds that makes your heart sing? What is the most interesting encounter you’ve had with a bird/ or most rare bird sighting? (most exciting moment)

My bird-watching hobby may have developed as an excuse to be outdoors. I feel less troubled and more light-hearted on the days when I can get outside in the fresh air. The birds I recognize have become my friends. Hearing and seeing them make me feel at home. If there is a bird or other organism of interest I don’t know, I like to figure it out and learn how it fits in to everything else. I suppose I do have my favorites: I love the woodpeckers—stunning Red-Headed Woodpeckers that flash bright white when they fly; the sharp, almost prehistoric calls of the Pileated Woodpecker, and the way they rock back on their tails hammering on a tree trunk. The wrens are wonderful. Our Carolina Wren has seemingly endless energy for singing, especially at dawn. Up north, the House Wrens start with their lively chortle before first light and keep it up all day long. I think my favorite bird song comes from the Wood Thrush; it’s a rich, flute-like melody. When I hear it, I feel like I’m in a safe and serene place.

If we asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they more than likely say?

Friendly, Adaptable and Loud!

What are you currently ROARING about?

I am roaring about and concerned about the rampant and accelerating rate of development here in our county. If we don’t figure out how to put the brakes on and leave much more land alone, we may forever lose all the qualities we love about living here. This place, so near sea-level, is especially fragile. I remember the first time the oyster beds along the May River were officially closed due to fecal bacteria concentrations in the water. That was about 12 years ago when the total area of impervious surfaces in the watershed was at a pivotal point—about 11 percent, I think. I learned that a higher percentage would start to degrade the quality of the river. Since then, we have allowed more concrete, pavement, asphalt and roofs, most of which funnel unfiltered pesticides, fertilizers, petroleum, human litter and toxins right into our creeks, rivers, and marshes. Alarmingly, that is only one facet of the deterioration of our natural environment caused by development. I believe it’s crucial that we work to forge new models of how to live and develop lifestyles that leave more land to natural processes and more shorelines to the birds.

20 Quick Bites
Oysters or Shrimp? Yum. I’ll have some of both, please.
Song birds or Birds of Prey? Love both but it’s a maternal love for the songbirds and awestruck respect for the birds of prey.
Night Owl or Early Bird? Love both.
Natural Museum or History Museum? I love all museums but would want to see the Natural Museum first.
Alaska or Iceland? Both!
Fiction or Non-fiction? Both
Comedies or Dramas? I like to laugh so probably comedies.
Gardening or Fishing? Gardening. I love to eat fish & thank the fisher folks. I’ll bring the fruits & vegetables.
Neutrals or Color? Depends on where and when.
Plans or Surprises? Plans for sure. Life presents the surprises. I like to plan ahead.
T-rex or Brontosaurus? I like the big gooey eyes I picture on the brontosaurus.
Biology or Chemistry? Definitely both. Add physics to the list, too.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Probably chocolate, although I like vanilla with fruit. Aren’t they both considered vegetables since they are derived from beans?
Zoo or Aquarium? Both.
Singing or Dancing? Used to be both. As I age, I am more able to sing (sort of) than dance, but I love to watch dancers.
Cinderella or Pocahontas? Definitely Pocahontas. It’s the outdoor life I believe she led.
Boating or Hiking? Both. I love the water & the land.
Michael Jackson or Prince? Both marvelous musicians but I know Michael Jackson’s music better.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning. Herbal tea in the evening.
Dinner or a Movie? Dinner AND a movie with a glass of wine!