Education Opportunities on Sapelo Island
Schools programs are available on Sapelo Island on Tuesdays and Thursdays of the month. Programs are limited to forty (40) students and chaperons. Programs include science based interpretation and tours of Sapelo Island as well as an introduction to its rich historical and cultural legacy.
Into the classroom education
Many of our programs can be held at your school! Call and inquire about these programs at 912-485-2300
The Education Facility
The facility on Sapelo Island houses a 40-seat classroom with audio-visual capabilities and a wet lab equipped with work stations, microscopes, stereoscopes, and aquaria.
Current costs for on-island programming:
As of March 1, 2013 the following price structure applies:
$10.00 per student (ages 6-12) and $15.00 per student or adult (ages 13 and up).
Book early before available dates are reserved
School Programs offered on Sapelo Island
Estuarine Ecology Lab
Students will explore the engine that drives the salt marsh ecosystem. Students will culture bacteria in nutrient agar and learn of their vital role in the salt marsh ecosystem and in our everyday lives. Students will use plankton tows to collect plankton samples and examine them using microscopes and learn of the rich diversity of microscopic organisms that inhabit our tidal water systems and record their findings using custom data sheets. Students will discuss the role of these organisms in the salt marsh ecosystems and their importance to human society. Students will learn how global climate change and water quality can adversely affect the ocean microorganisms and its affects to the human population.
Dock Fouling Lab
Students will explore the organisms that inhabit Sapelo Island’s fouling communities. Students will collect organisms using hand collection, dip nets and fouling plates and examine them in a lab using stereoscopes, flex cameras and hand-held digital cameras. Students will learn of the various species that inhabit our tidal creeks, their unique adaptation and the roles they play the coastal ecosystem.
General Lab Program
Students will explore the more charismatic mega fauna of the reserve through hands on interpretation. Students will learn about sea turtles, manatees, North Atlantic Right Whales, bottlenose dolphins, pygmy sperm whales, horseshoe crabs, shorebirds and a host of other organisms that inhabit our coastal waters. This program combines images with hands-on artifacts for students to explore the complex lives of these fascinating creatures.
Beach Ecology Program
Students will explore the open beach and tidal ecosystems. Students will learn about geology, interstitial in-fauna and the rich abundance of wildlife in our coastal systems including bivalves, gastropods, sea jellies, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles and the north Atlantic right whales and much more. Students will also learn about how climate change is affecting coastal ecosystems, and how various pollutants are affecting the natural coastal ecosystems. Students have the opportunity to participate in pulling fish and or shrimp seines to discover the near shore biodiversity of aquatic organisms and use pumps and sieves to discover some of Sapelo’s more hidden wildlife.
Barrier Island Ecology – Nature Trail Exploration
Students will learn about the rich ecology of a S.E. barrier island through the exploration of our one (1) mile nature trail. The students will be able to transition from the ancient Pleistocene era formations to the current Holocene formations. Students will learn about the flora and fauna that make up a typical barrier island and how the ecology of an island affects the history of its inhabitants. The program will span the biologically rich maritime forest, through the salt marsh, salt pans, tidal creeks, dune systems and will terminate onto the open beach. Students will learn about invasive species and the threats to the environment caused by global climate change.
Students will conduct experiments of the Reserve’s estuarine waters from Doboy Sound’s tidal creeks to the Atlantic Ocean. Students will learn how values such as salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and temperature affect the organisms that inhabit our coastal waters. Students will learn how to use SWMP (System Wide Monitoring Program) data apply it to local issues and its use in the classroom.
Understanding Climate Change
Students will explore how our Earth’s climate is changing and ways in which we are addressing this important issue. This program will combinehands on activities and demonstraions with field activities..
Students will learn about the diverse avian community that inhabits the coast of Georgia. Students will learn how each species has adapted to its specific niche. Students will learn about the biology and natural history of our coastal birds and current research and conservation efforts to protect them. Students may get the opportunity to witness an eagle nesting or examine a wading bird rookery.
Students will learn about the amazing life history of one of Sapelo’s most charismatic species. This course will combines a powerpoint presentation with hands-on artifacts and will focus on the loggerhead sea turtle and the other four species that inhabit Georgia’s near shore waters. Students will learn about current research and conservation efforts and ways we can protect this threatened species.
Students will learn about Georgia’s marine mammals and the threats they face. This course will give students an overview on the north Atlantic right whale and the efforts in Georgia to save this critically endangered species. Students will also learn about the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, pygmy sperm whale, and the West Indian manatee. Students will learn of current research and conservation efforts to save these imperiled animals. This course will combine a power presentation with hands-on artifacts.
The Right Whale: Species on the Brink
Students will learn about Georgia’s official state marine mammal, the North Atlantic Right Whale. This course will focus more closely on this critically endangered marine mammal. Students will learn about the right whale’s life history and efforts to bring it back from the edge of extinction. This course will combine a power presentation with hands-on artifacts.
Life History and Management of the West Indian Manatee.
Students will focus more closely on the evolution, life history, and current research efforts in place to save these gentle giants. This course will combine a power presentation with hands-on artifacts.
Students will learn about the rich diversity of avian fauna and why the Altamaha River Delta has been named a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve. The course will focus on the red knot, American oystercatcher and all of Georgia’s solitary and colonial nesting shorebirds. Students will use binoculars and spotting scopes to learn to identify the various species and learn about their adaptations. Students will learn about current research and conservation measures design to ensure their long term recovery.
Students will learn about the life history and conservation status of this amazing creature. Students will learn about the evolution of this ancient sea creature and how drastically the world has changed during it evolutionary time frame. Students will learn about its connection to shorebirds and its vital importance to medical research and space exploration. Students may get a chance to witness these incredible animals emerge to lay their eggs upon Sapelo’s beach and tidal creek banks.
Students will learn about our near shore fish species through hand’s on interactions. Students will use cast nets and fish seines to collect species for study. Students will learn to identify the features of the various fish species and how to interpret there uses. Students will learn the differences between sharks and rays and bony fishes and many of the special adaptations of our coastal fish.
Students will learn about the incredible biodiversity of Georgia’s maritime forest, salt marsh and dune system. Students will learn how plants played a vital role in the shaping of Sapelo Island from the time of the early native Americans, through the plantation years and modern era. Students will learn about the special adaptations coastal plants have that help them thrive in this often harsh environment.
Sapelo Island’s Historical and Cultural Legacy
Students will learn about the 4,500 years of Sapelo’s historical legacy. Students will explore the ancient Native American shell rings, plantation era structures, the Sapelo Island lighthouse, Reynolds Mansion (if available) and Hog Hammock community. Students will explore the islands Geechee culture, basket weaving and African origins. A powerpoint presentation may be added to this program.
Barrier Island Ecology Package
This program combines the estuarine ecology lab, dock fouling lab, general lab, beach ecology programs with options for nature trail exploration, Hog Hammock Community tour, seine netting, Reynolds Mansion (when available) and Sapelo Island Lighthouse. This is our most popular packaged program.
This program is designed for groups who want a general tour of the South end of Sapelo and Hog Hammock Community. These destinations will be followed by extended time on the beach where visitors can explore Sapelo’s pristine beach.
The Snakes of Sapelo Island
This program is intended to teach students of all age groups about the rich diversity of these amazing reptiles. Students will learn about their early evolution, unique adaptations, and the current threats facing them. This course will combine a powerpoint presentation with hands-on artifacts.
Alligators on the Georgia Coast
This program is intended to teach students about these incredible crocodilians along our coast. Students will learn about their role in our coastal ecosystem, their unique biology and adaptations, and the threats they face. This course will combine a powerpoint presentation with hands-on artifacts and an optional field study.
Save the Frogs!
This program is intended to teach students of all age groups about the current plight of the world’s amphibian population. The decline in amphibian populations is being described as the “Next great extinction.” Students will learn about the current threats as well as some of the incredible amphibian biodiversity along the Georgia coast. This course consists of a powerpoint presentation with an option for a field study.
The Bottlenose Dolphin
Students will learn about Georgia’s bottlenose dolphins. This course will give students an overview of the bottlenose dolphin, including the threats they face and current research and conservation efforts in place to save these unique animals. This course will combine a powerpoint presentation with hands-on artifacts.
Students will learn about the biology and the diversity of sharks in Georgia and throughout the world. This course will give students an overview of the threats sharks face and current research and conservation efforts in place to save these misunderstood animals. This course will combine a powerpoint presentation with hands-on artifacts.
Shorebird Conservation and ID
Students will learn about Georgia’s shorebirds and seabirds. This course will give students an overview of the shorebird and seabird identification, the threats they face and current research and conservation efforts in place to save these beautiful animals. This course consists of a powerpoint presentation and field study.
Students will get a general an estuary and why it is such a unique and diverse habitat. Students will learn about their features and function in the ecosystem. Students will learn about current research efforts and threats facing our nation’s estuaries. This powerpoint presentation, or any other presentation, can be combined with all of our other programming.
Into the Classroom
These programs are designed to take some of our programming into your school. A custom program can be designed to fit your school’s needs.
Additional activities and topics can be developed and included at the group leader’s request.
Brochures, area maps, and other literature are also available for visiting groups.
A selection of films are also available for viewing in our audio visual classroom. These titles include: Sapelo: An Island in Time, (A Look at Georgia’s National Estuarine Research Reserve and UGA Institute), The Sapelo Island Lighthouse, (a video chronicling the nearly 200 year old history of Sapelo’s most iconic symbol). Other titles are available upon request.
For more details on educational programs or materials, please contact the Education Office (912) 485-2300.
For information on the national education program and other reserves, please visit the National Estuarine Research Reserves website.