Each year the Natural Science Education Department at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park engages an average of 4000 students. The students that come to the Park on a field trip should not expect to be sitting in a seat learning from a book or even a smart board. The students that come to participate will learn through hands-on, interactive activities that encourage education through exploration and discovery.
One of the 10 different programs taught at the Park is Turtle Hurdles. Turtle Hurdles is a Project WILD program designed to teach the students about the life cycle of a turtle, its food chain, hazards it may come across during its lifetime and how each student can make a difference in the environment around them.
Turtle Hurdles starts out at the beach where the students will learn to identify turtle tracks, determine the various types of turtles and measure the distance the turtles had to travel up the beach to lay their eggs. It is also here where they will discuss what a turtle eats and the importance of maintaining our beaches as a turtle habitat.
After the beach, students have an opportunity to meet Shelldon, MacArthur Beach’s resident loggerhead sea turtle and then play “Turtle Hurdles”. In this game children pretend to be a hatchling trying to make it to the ocean while a few others pretend to be predators or other hazards turtles may face along the way. By the end of this journey, there will be one winner, representing the one in 1000 sea turtles that live long enough to reach reproductive maturity. Through this interactive game, students gain a true understanding of the dangers the turtles face.
“Turtle Hurdles is one of my favorite programs to teach and defiantly one of the student’s favorites as well,” says Janice Kerber, Director of Education at Macarthur Beach State Park. Many of the students that come visit our Park have never seen the ocean let alone a sea turtle. It is amazing to see the kid’s faces light up when seeing these things for the first time, and realizing they too can make a difference.”
Turtle nesting season has started at MacArthur Beach State Park. The season runs March through October. Last year MacArthur Beach State Park had a record breaking season with more than 1900 nests along its 1.6 miles of beach. The Parks first nest this year was a leatherback nest and was recorded on March 15th. As of May 14, 2013 there are 13 leatherback nests and 69 loggerhead nests.
Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park in a non-profit corporation with a mission of generating supplemental resources to preserve restore and interpret the natural and cultural assets of the Park for present and future generations. “The Friends” are currently conducting a Give the Gift of Nature campaign for long term support of the Director of Education, enhanced quality and curriculum development. The Board of Directors will match contributions of $5000 and above up to $200,000.