Plan A Field Trip
Timing and logistics can make or break a field trip. Plan your trip carefully from the time you leave school to the time you return. Make realistic estimates of the time needed to travel to St. Marys from your starting point and provide the bus driver with the proper map and directions (see end of this section).
Programs: Requests for programs can be made upon reservation confirmation by contacting the National Park Service at 912-882-4336, ext 257 or by e-mail. Please see below for more information on Ranger programs.
Parking: Parking in downtown St Marys for busses is located on Seagrove St., one block west of the Cumberland Island Visitor Center. The vehicle parking lot is located behind Cumberland Island's Administrative building, the two story white building, also west of the of the Cumberland Island Visitor Center.
Mainland Visitor Center store: The store operated as a cooperating sales area by Eastern National, stocks barrier island-related educational books, activities and gifts. It can accommodate only small groups of students. Leaders must supervise students who are shopping. It is open during normal business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily except Christmas.
Ferry service: Carrying capacity is 145. Private charters can carry 145 people. School groups reserve 125 tickets for the 9:00 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. sailings to the island. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance by phone (877-860-6787) or fax (912-673-7747). Reservations made over 30 days in advance require the ferry to be prepaid to hold the reservation.
There are three criteria to qualify for an academic fee waiver: eligibility, educational purpose, and relevance of park resources or facilities.
A statement confirming educational or scientific tax exemption from the IRS or the applicant's national, state, or local tax authority; or
A statement, from a bona fide academic institution meeting one of these eligibility standards, confirming that the group is visiting for the purpose of providing transferable academic credit based on a curriculum; or
A statement of accreditation or recognition as an educational institution from a legitimate international, national, regional, sate, or local authority for the applicant's location.
Educational Purpose of the Visit
Applicants must provide a written statement (documentation) verifying that the visit supports a specific curriculum for which academic credit is offered.
Relevance to Park Resources or Facilities
Relevance to the park resources must be described. Applicants must provide a written statement identifying the park resources and/or facilities that will be used to support the educational purpose of the visit, and how they are relevant to that purpose.
Print Entrance Fee Waiver Form, complete and fax to 912-882-6284 or mail to Fee Coordinator 101 Wheeler Street, St Marys, GA 31558.
Ranger Programs: Ranger programs are scheduled on a first come, first requested basis and can only be booked after your ferry reservation is confirmed. Programs are available as staffing allows and are generally one hour in length. We do not have enough staffing for Rangers to serve as additional chaperones or to shadow your school program.
Trash: Cumberland Island is a "pack it in, pack it off" park. There are no trash receptacles on the island so be prepared to carry your garbage back to the mainland.
Bathrooms: There are ADA bathrooms at the Cumberland Island Visitor Center and on the island at Dungeness Dock, Sea Camp Ranger Station, and the Laundry House in the Dungeness Historic District. There are also bathrooms on the ferry, but these may not meet ADA standards.
Lunch: There is no food service available on the island. Plan to eat outdoors at the picnic tables located throughout the Park. All students and instructors should come prepared with a hearty bag lunch and beverages. Water bottles can be refilled at the fountains located throughout the park.
What to wear: The coast is likely to be cooler and breezier than inland areas. Please be certain all students come equipped with seasonally appropriate clothing and rain gear. There is no vehicular transportation on the island. Students should wear comfortable walking shoes. Hats keep the bugs off and shade the head in warmer months and keep in the heat in winter.
Comfort gear: Sand gnats, ticks, and mosquitoes can be found on the island year round. Have students bring plenty of insect repellent. Sunscreen is also recommended no matter what time of year.
Discipline: Teachers and chaperones are responsible for discipline during the visit.
Respect for resources: shells and shark's teeth may be collected. All other resources can be observed and then returned to its proper place. Please keep Cumberland Island a special place by respecting and protecting our natural resources and private property.
Safety: Activities that involve wading or swimming should have a certified life guard present. There are no lifeguards present on Cumberland Island beaches.
For special needs: The National Park Service encourages students with special needs to participate in programs as much as possible. Please call to discuss any special arrangements and/ or program adjustments.
Directions (from North or South): Follow I-95 to Exit 3 in Georgia. From either north or south, take left turn off exit ramp onto Highway 40 East. Follow for about 10 miles until it dead ends at the waterfront in St Marys. The two-story blue building on the waterfront is the Cumberland Island Visitor Center. Check in upstairs.
Parking: Bus and private vehicle parking is located one block west of our visitor center. Vehicles are encouraged to park in the lot behind our administration building. Buses will find parking on the east side of Seagrove Street.
Ensuring Student Safety
For the safety of your students, you must be prepared for any emergency situation. While prevention of any injuries is always the goal, the following information will help to prepare you should an emergency arise.
Health forms: Group leaders should have health forms and permission slips for all students, parent aides and educators with them on site. Review the health forms and note any unusual allergies or health needs prior to the trip. The local hospital needs this information to treat injured persons. The hospital must also be able to reach a parent or guardian by phone in order to treat a child. Phone numbers for all participants should be easily accessible.
First Aid: Groups occasionally choose to bring their school nurse on trips to handle any health needs. If this is not possible, a person certified in first aid training should accompany the group. The teacher should carry a first aid kit as well as the necessary medications for the students.
Emergency Vehicles: One group leader should plan on driving a separate vehicle to the park rather than riding the school bus if possible. In an emergency, injured person(s) can be transported by NPS boat back to the mainland. Leaders need to be able to accompany an injured student and/or ambulance to the hospital.
General Items: Items that help make the trip more comfortable and more pleasant include: garbage bags, whistle, spare sack lunch, sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, compass, and a map (available at visitor centers and docks). Pencil and paper is good have to take notes. Remember, once you are on the island, there is no going back to the bus!
Chaperones are an essential component of any field trip. The parents and teacher-aides are an extension of the staff and need to be actively involved with the students. Their role is to make the visit to Cumberland Island safe, fun and educationally rewarding.
Chaperones should be properly clothed and prepared to go to the shore. They are expected to help teachers with discipline and participation of students. If chaperones hesitate to do any activity, students will sense this and lose enthusiasm for exploration.
A major part of any outdoor program is discovery. Chaperones do not need to know the names of everything or have all the answers. They are there to help the students explore, observe and ask questions. They should encourage students to answer their own questions through careful observations.
It is worth the time and effort to organize and prepare good chaperones. The responsibility of recruiting, training and keeping good chaperones falls on you, the teacher. Once you have established chaperone- teacher relationships, keep your chaperones informed about future field trips. Make sure they know and understand how important they are to you and the class.
Remember, recruit chaperones early and be sure they under stand and feel comfortable about the plans and expectations for the day.
Preparing Your Chaperones - a Checklist
Did You Know?
Cumberland Island’s human history spans nearly 4000 years and features time periods including early native peoples, the Colonial expansion, the Plantation Era, the Gilded Age and finally its designation as a National Seashore.