Over the summer, I began organizing a three-day ecology education field trip for my homeschool group. Having experienced the same field trip at the Tybee Island, Georgia, 4H Center, I decided to try the classes at the Jekyll Island 4H Center. We ended up scheduling our trip for a three-day, two-night adventure in mid-October.
I was a bit concerned about the weather at that time of year but it ended up being the perfect time of year to go. Daytime temperatures ran in the high 70s/low 80s, with lots of sun, and you only needed a light jacket in the evenings. The best thing about going at this time of year was that the bugs were not as intense as they can be during the spring and summer months.
Working with the ecology education coordinator was very easy. She was very responsive to all of my questions, often responding to email within a couple of hours, even when she was on vacation in Europe.
We ended up having eight families and a total of 15 children join us on the field trip. For me, this was really the perfect sized group. There were enough kids of varying ages that the kids were able to make friends, but there weren’t so many kids that lead to lots of distractions and an inability to interact with instructors and learn.
We broke our group up into seven kids ages five through nine, and eight kids ages 10 and older. I think it’s always a good idea to break your group up if possible because the instructors are then able to really cater the lessons to the kids’ level.
Classes started at 1:30 on our first day. We all planed to arrive in time to have lunch before the first class began. If you arrive early enough, you are able to check-in and move your things into the dorms before lunch.
Overall, the field trip at Camp Jekyll Island was truly one of the best field trips we’ve ever taken. I signed our group up for all hands-on, interactive classes so that the children would be engaged in their learning. If you are thinking about organizing a field trip to the Camp Jekyll Island 4H Center, I strongly recommended it. Below, I will detail different aspects of the field trip for you.
Once you decide that you are interested in attending an ecology education field trip at Camp Jekyll Island, your first step is to call and make a reservation. Camp Jekyll Island tends to book up several months in advance. So as soon as you know that you are going and you have a rough estimate of your group size, I strongly recommend that you immediately make reservations. You will have to put a deposit down in order to hold your spot, so you’ll want to begin collecting non-refundable deposits from attendees right away.
Now that you have a date, go to their website and review all the classes that are offered. Some classes are offered only during certain times of year so you have to make sure that the classes you want are offered when you are going. There will be classes offered by the Jekyll Island staff as well as school- or parent-led activities that your group will be responsible for organizing. These activities tend to be evening, after dinner activities designed to keep your group entertained after all the daytime classes are over and before 10:30 “lights out.”
Being a group of homeschoolers, of course, our group wasn’t really interested in any of the school/parent-led activities and we just called that activity time “free time”. The Jekyll Island staff was very good at working with us to accommodate our freewheeling homeschool style and we moms were able to come up with some fun unstructured activities for the kids.
After you have put together your attendee numbers and your classes, you will fill out a form and turn that into the Jekyll Island staff, who will then send you a schedule for your trip.
We attended Camp Jekyll Island in October 2017. At that point the facility had been open for only a few months after a major renovation. Essentially, everything was brand-new. The campus was absolutely beautiful. The campus is made up of several buildings including the main administrative building that contains classrooms and a large auditorium, the cafeteria, several dormitories, staff quarters, a gift shop and an outdoor canteen area where you can buy snacks during the breaks.
There is a barrier of woods between the camp and the ocean, with a lovely boardwalk that takes you through the woods on a short 3 to 5 minute walk to the beach.
What I liked most about the facilities were the large, open green spaces. During every break, dozens of kids could be found outside kicking balls and running and playing. There were also a basketball court and sand volleyball pitch. I loved that the kids had lots of opportunities to get outside and run and play in an unstructured atmosphere.
Each dormitory consisted of two private "teacher" rooms, each with one bunkbed and private bathroom. All dorms were equipped for accessibility. There were then 12 additional bunkbeds and a large, clean community bathroom for the students. Our group occupied the Spoonbill A and B dorms. Since we homeschool, we occupied the dorms by family and most moms stayed with their kids in the open bunk room. We were hoping the adjoining door between the two dorms would unlock so that our entire group could interact in the evenings but the adjoining door would not open.
Every class that we took was absolutely amazing. The instructors were great and the children really had to get outside of their comfort zones and handle creatures and really become a part of their environment.
HANDS ON ACTIVITIES
Since I had a child in both age groups, I was able to experience the classes from two different perspectives. And what I can say is that while the older group definitely had classes that were geared towards older kids, I did not feel like the younger kids’ material was being dumbed down for them. I really felt like the instructors did a good job of presenting the material in an age-appropriate, yet not babyish, way.