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Cassill: 4-H’ers attend Jekyll Island environmental camp

During spring break, three Clark County youth joined 60 other youth from District 4 who journeyed to Jekyll Island 4-H Camp in Georgia.

The youth were middle school-aged and all had a future career interest in natural resources. Dallas Hall, Logan Roche and Cassidy Cavill were the three youth selected from Clark County to attend the Environmental Camp Program at Jekyll Island.

The Georgia 4-H Environmental Camp Program was filled with educational opportunities centered on marine biology and costal ecology. The program was fantastic.

Classes were taught by interns who are with the program from August until May. Youth were split into groups and traveled in that group throughout the three days.

The first class was beach ecology. This was the first time for some to put their feet in the sand and see the ocean. Youth learned about tides, sand formation/movement and explored the beach for creatures past and present.

Next on the agenda was seining. Seining was one of the classes most favored by all participants. Youth were taught how to work in pairs to take a 12-foot net set on poles to sweep the ocean waters for living creatures. It was amazing to see what they would find in their net. Specimens included small squid that changed colors, a blue crab with egg sac still attached, hermit crabs, jellyfish, anchovies and other fish.

After dinner, campers learned about saltwater fishing and wrapped up the evening under the cover of darkness taking a night walk along the boardwalk and beach.

Day two began a little chilly and blustery. Campers started their day in the herpetology lab at Jekyll Island 4-H Camp learning about the differences and similarities of reptiles and amphibians. Diamondback terrapins, box turtles, sea turtles, king snakes, Burmese pythons, young crocodiles and alligators were all introduced to the group for visual appreciation, to feel their skin and sometimes hold.

Next participants took their fishing poles to the beach to attempt to open reel in salt water fish in very windy conditions. Despite the wind and quiet fishing expedition, the group still had a great experience casting their lines into the waves.

After lunch, the group visited and shopped for souvenirs at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where sick and injured sea turtles come for rehabilitation.

Then, the group donned their muck boots and headed to the more inland portion of the island to muck through marshes learning about the ecosystem surrounding the marshy soils, plants and animals. They learned marsh mud was used to exfoliate the skin, and a bald eagle graced the group with its presence.

No camp is complete without at least one campfire and that is how they ended the last evening on Jekyll Island.

Day three, move out day, dawned sunny and warm. Youth enjoyed their last class walking through the Maritime Forest on Jekyll Island. They began the tour by the sand dunes and moving through the vegetative landscape that separated the ocean from the inner portions of the island.

Campers were each given different cards that showcased different plants and trees. The cards were filled with fun facts about each of the plants and trees, and youth were asked to share one fun fact about their plant or tree with the group as the instructor pointed the vegetation out along the walk.

The last portion of the walk was in a forested area on the South end of the island that housed a beautiful array of live oak trees decorated with Spanish moss and saw palms growing at the bases of the oaks.

The group then said its goodbyes to the ocean, sun and warm weather, making it home to Kentucky just in time for the sleet and snow as the group pulled into the parking lot early Saturday morning at the Clark County Cooperative Extension Office.

The youth stated they would definitely do it again despite the 14-hour van ride back.

Heather Cassill is a Clark County extension agent for 4-H youth development. She can be reached at 744-4682.