Special thanks to Chrissy Kaczynski for story support and photos
As part of the Department of Juvenile Justice's Rescue 2 Restore national support service education grant sponsored by State Farm/Youth Services America, youth from the Muscogee Youth Development Center (Muscogee YDC) were able to visit the Georgia coast for an educational field trip to Jekyll Island. The theme of the education service project was coastal education with a student-chosen focus on saving sea turtles.
To begin their educational field trip, the youth first visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Taking a guided tour of the center, the youth learned about turtles currently being rehabilitated by the organization. The youth then participated in a guided ecological beach tour where they were taught about Jekyll Island's plant and animal life. Turtle tracks from the previous night could be seen on the beach where the female turtles came to lay their eggs. The turtle nesting sites were marked and covered to protect the future turtles from animal predators and human harm.
After visiting the beach (many of the participaint youth had never seen the beach, ocean, or sea turtles before and were amazed by the experience), the Muscogee youth traveled to the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resource Division office. Meeting with DNR biologists, the youth boarded four boats to visit a protected bird nesting area. Surveying many different species of birds, the youth also were able to find shells, shark teeth, and fossils.
The information gathered during this trip is helping the Muscogee youth learn about the marine damage caused by debris (plastic in particular) and the need for additional awareness and action. As part of their studies, the youth are designing a reusable bag to encourgage the elimination of plastic bags. Additionally, the Muscogee youth have started advocating for a recycling program to be started at their facility.