6. RFI Topic: Education Opportunities

IPJI Recommendation: Provide for integrated planning for the state park’s educational opportunities, including its natural environment, existing and needed facilities, and existing and future programs

State parks can and should play a role in supporting the environmental or science education of their citizens.  A quick Google search revealed that at least 29 states support environmental or science education in their state parks. Georgia, unfortunately, was not listed among them, with the exception of the educational programs offered by the Hike Inn in North Georgia.

A leader in state park environmental education, Pennsylvania offers a desirable model for state park environmental education:

Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of State Parks' environmental education program aims to develop a citizenry that is aware of and concerned about the total environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, attitude, motivations, commitment and skills to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones. To achieve these goals, a program of services is offered for the citizens of Pennsylvania and visitors to the state that promotes:
  • An understanding that humankind is an inseparable part of the ecosystem and whatever humans do may alter their surroundings.
  • A basic knowledge of the natural laws which govern the environment, skills to permit solving environmental problems, and recognition of each individual's responsibility toward finding solutions to environmental problems.

Jekyll Island State Park, with its 4-H Center, Tidelands Nature Center, miles of walking and biking trails, marshlands, and maritime environment set on a barrier island is the perfect setting for an innovative model outdoor classroom. Already, the state park is an unofficial outdoor classroom for college students from around Georgia. It is indeed unfortunate that Jekyll Island State Park does not now offer a series of Ranger-led interpretive programs, walks, video presentations, and more formal curriculum-based programs (with the exception of the programs now offered by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center).

The upcoming master planning process offers an opportunity to engage the public as well as educational and interpretive experts in integrating a vision of Jekyll Island State Park as an outdoor classroom. Jekyll Island’s disciplinary offerings should focus on environmental education as described above by Pennsylvania, but could also include the scientific process, environmental science, biology and life sciences, geology and earth sciences, geography, and sociology, among others. This vision should be developed as a part of the overall state park master planning process, and should include the public and experts from the outset to ensure that the educational process is citizen-driven and citizen-inspired, as well as grounded in the best practices in environmental and science education.

- By Dr. Barbara (“Babs”) McDonald, Chairperson, Board of Directors, Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island [mcdonaldbabs@gmail.com]