Friends of Hunting Island’s People’s Park Project aims to bring more children to Hunting Island

From staff reports

For several years, Friends of Hunting Island members have been working on a way to “pay our privilege forward,” by bringing more under-served children to the state park.

Covid-19 delayed the launch of the project, but now, with support from the Coastal Communities Foundation, Friends of Hunting Island will begin bringing families to Hunting Island State Park through The People’s Park Project.

Educators have noted that under-served children have a more limited vocabulary than their middle-class peers when they enter school, in part because they have had fewer life experiences. Going to the beach is one of those important childhood experiences, yet many children in the Lowcountry have never seen the ocean, despite it being in their own back yards.

Out of financial necessity, Hunting Island State Park began charging entry fees in 1982, which made it prohibitive for many families to visit the park. After more than 30 years of free entry, the number of people who could easily visit the park diminished significantly. Still, Hunting Island is the No. 1 most-visited park in South Carolina today.

Hunting Island State Park and Friends of Hunting Island have supported the Discover Carolina program for many years. This state-created program is curriculum based, so that students can learn science, history, or sociology through a park-based experience in an outdoor classroom.

Rangers are trained to teach on the subjects pertinent to their park. At Hunting Island, students in 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades learn about sea turtles, salt marsh ecology, and barrier island ecology.

The People’s Park Project is intended to reach students in other ways, by bringing preschool and younger classes, families, and organizations to the park for a day of fun and learning.

Many studies have shown how important it is for children to engage with nature. Time in the outdoors enhances their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development. By getting children of all ages out to the park, Friends of Hunting Island may be able to raise their level of environmental stewardship — a benefit to everyone.

There is no more inspiring moment than to witness a child’s first view of the beauty and power of the ocean. Volunteers in the People’s Park Project will have that opportunity.

To find out more about the project, contact the project team at FOHIPeoplesPark@gmail.com.

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