Whale Branch school plans memorials for drowned student

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMay 16, 2013 

Norman "Kirk" Kirkland

Whale Branch Middle School will name an oyster reef set to be built today after the late Norman Kirkland Jr., part of a series of memorials for the seventh-grader who drowned Saturday, according to one of his teachers.

Environmental studies teacher Kathryn Madden said the reef will be named "Kirkland's Reef" in a dedication ceremony next week, and a plaque will eventually be added at the site in his memory.

"Norman was a huge outdoors person," she said. "He loved hunting, fishing and gardening, and he was always excited about the environmental program."

Kirkland, 13, drowned while swimming in the Ashepoo River in Colleton County.

The reef will be built today by students, school volunteers and scientists from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources behind the campus on the bank of the Whale Branch River. Whale Branch students bagged oysters shells with DNR scientists in February to build the reef in the salt marsh.

Madden and her students will also pot plants Monday in the school's planter gardens in memory of Kirkland.

"He loved to jump in the garden, and he would always do what he needed to do," she said. "He was one of the best students in class."

Principal Matthew Hunt said the school is also encouraging students on Monday to wear camouflage or orange and purple -- the colors of the Clemson Tigers, of whom Kirkland was a big fan. Madden said the school was also planning the dedication of the reef on the same day. Details are still being worked out, he said.

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