Jekyll Island is one of Georgia’s thirteen barrier islands and one of only four that have bridge access. As a barrier island it serves many natural purposes which include protection of the mainland and as a nesting site for birds, sea turtles, and aquatic animals such as shrimp and crabs. During our study we visited four distinctly different environments; the coastal beach, a salt marsh, a maritime forest, and the wave and erosion battered north end of the island.
While on the beach, the students studied dune formation and erosion, the function of dunes as protectors of the shoreline, and the effects of tides and waves on the natural shape of the island. Students also had the opportunity to collect shells, see native wildlife, and explore the beach ecosystem.
A salt marsh is a large flat grassy area on the mainland side of the island. Tides move up and down bringing in nutrients and moving sediments and nutrients back into the ocean. These areas provide great nurseries for fish, crustaceans, and birds. The students experienced first-hand sight of thousands of scurrying fiddler crabs and the wonderful smell of decaying detritus (marsh mud).
While in the maritime forest, our students saw a fresh water swamp surrounded by 100 year old live oaks and thick stands of saw palmetto bushes. The views were scenic and lush and reminded us of a scene from Jurassic Park.
When we visited the north end of the island, the scene was very different. This end is subject to the harsh effect of waves and long shore current which erodes the beach. Years of erosion has moved many feet of sand away from this end of the island and actually toppled the huge oak trees into the surf. This scene was correctly named “Bone Yard Beach”.
The students had a great time, learned a lot, and shared some wonderful kid friendly experiences. We look forward to making this the annual fall experience for our sixth graders.