The People's Park Project
Hunting Island is an Open-Air Classroom
Friends of Hunting Island board and members are committed to supporting Hunting Island State Park in its mission to educate about the natural and cultural world of the island. In that regard, we have expanded our educational work to strengthen the park’s role in education.
The People’s Park Project—Diversifying and Expanding Hunting Island Access
Many have noted that Hunting Island State Park sits next to the sea islands, the historic home of Gullah people and descendants of former slaves. Yet many of these close neighbors have never visited Hunting Island. The Friends group is beginning to remedy this situation by providing greater access to the park for underserved communities throughout the Lowcountry.
Pre-School Children—Many South Carolina children enter school without the life experiences of their peers. Few have visited Hunting Island, and some have never seen the ocean. As a result, their vocabulary is poorer than their middle-class peers, and they start their educational careers a step behind at a critical moment. Through church groups and classes, we intend to get as many young students as possible in coastal South Carolina to visit Hunting Island. Friends of Hunting Island will pay entry fees and, in some cases, give students gift bags with reading materials.
Families—Part of our mission is to encourage and support entire families to visit the island. Once a family has discovered the wild beauty of Hunting Island and the awesome power of the ocean, we hope they will return regularly. We are reaching out to churches and other organizations to identify families interested in participating.
What we offer—Once we identify classes, families, or organizations that want to visit Hunting Island, we will provide the following based on the interests and needs of each participating group:
Entry fees for families and groups while funds are available.
Lunch—for groups of children who do not visit with a school. (Students on school trips bring boxed lunches from the school.)
Gift bags—with environmental literature, books, and an identification guide to the flora and fauna of Hunting Island. Books for the younger children.
Educational moments—experts speak to small groups in the areas of sea turtles, lighthouse history, barrier island ecology, and salt marshes.
If you are interested in participating in these programs as a family, a class, or an organization, please contact us through our email address: FOHIPeoplesPark@gmail.com.
Volunteers Needed—watch for announcements of openings in our newsletter
The People’s Park Project requires the help of many volunteers, but until covid-19 is under control, we cannot bring groups to the park. That may be in the fall of 2021. Some groups may be able to come out during the summer of 2021. We will need volunteers in these areas:
Chaperones—these volunteers will be assigned to one or two small children to help them navigate the park. Chaperones will be trained in the language of the park: that is, chaperones will need to know the names of shells, birds, trees, and ecological systems. They will also learn about the park’s and the Friend’s mission to recycle, reduce and reuse plastic, and understand human impact on climate change. Training will be provided for chaperones.
Speakers/Educators—Several volunteers may be needed to speak to groups with deep knowledge about the island, including its history, ecology, and climate impact. We foresee having stations around the island for each topic and circulating the children, students, or families through them. Lectures will only be 5-10 minutes each with lots of time for questions. Speakers will also be trained and will need to gear lectures to each audience.
Food preparation and service—some visitors will be offered lunch. Volunteers will be needed to help prepare and serve the food.
Pre- and Post-Activities—we will need people to meet with classroom teachers and other organizations or mentors to arrange for the trips. Some volunteers may go to the classrooms before and/or after the field trip and read or talk to the children about Hunting Island. This way we reinforce what they will or have learned through discussion and questions. Those who go to the schools will need to have background checks and complete a SLED application (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division). It’s free of charge and protects everyone.
To volunteer in one of the above capacities, please send an email to: FOHIPeoplesPark@gmail.com
We’ll contact you when opportunities become available.
Discover Carolina—Our Ongoing Educational Program
South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism and the South Carolina Department of Education jointly produced a program that would get students out of the classrooms and into the parks. Hunting Island State Park is targeted for three curriculum areas: Sea Turtles (3rd grade); Salt Marsh Ecology (5th grade); and Barrier Island Ecology (7th grade). Students from across the state come to Hunting Island to learn in those areas. Other state parks offer other subjects of study.
Friends of Hunting Island provides financial support for this program that is taught by well-trained Hunting Island Park staff.
Funding the Project
Friends of Hunting Island applies for grants to support this project, but our hope is to generate interest among our membership for sustained support. In addition to bringing children to the park, we want to provide a way for families who may not have the finances to purchase a park pass or a Friends membership to be able to visit the park when they can. We know that both children and adults need time in the natural world.
We hope to convert one-time visits by students and younger children into regular family visits. To do this, we need to provide low- to no-cost access to the park for families who will schedule their own trips based on their work schedules, the weather, and transportation availability.
Agape Family Life Center came to the Lighthouse today and danced to the Lighthouse Song.
Laura Scott Boozer