The staff of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) encourages teachers and other educators to utilize the refuge as a “living classroom,” to engage students in learning about the natural and cultural history of the Okefenokee. To better prepare your students and chaperones for their visit, educators should review with them refuge rules and safety precautions before their visit and when they first arrive at the refuge. This will help ensure their visit to Okefenokee NWR is a safe, fun, and a rewarding experience.
Before Your Visit
Planning: Before coming to Okefenokee NWR, plan your trip carefully from the time your group leaves school to the time your group returns. If your group is scheduled for a ranger-led program and/or boat tour, plan to arrive at least ten minutes before your program or tour begins. Arriving late might result in programs being shortened or cancelled. Make realistic estimates of the time needed to travel to your destination and provide the bus driver with a proper map and directions. If your group will be late, please notify a ranger at the Visitor Center at (912) 496-7836.
Pre-Visit Activities: The Okefenokee NWR website has information about wildlife, plants, and the people of the Okefenokee. If your students are participating in a ranger-guided program, have them complete the program’s pre-visit activities. For groups visiting on their own, educator-guided programs and activities sheets are available.
Teacher and Chaperone Participation: Teachers and chaperones are an essential component to any field trip. Teachers should bring one chaperone for every five to ten students. We expect teachers and chaperones to be responsible for the discipline and participation of their students. Students should also be encouraged to ask questions. The group’s trip coordinator should provide their fellow teachers and chaperones a copy of their schedule and inform them of any changes.
What to Wear: Discuss with your students what they should wear during their visit. Have them dress for the weather. Appropriate clothing for the refuge is a long sleeve light-colored shirt, long pants, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes. A light jacket and rainwear might also be needed. Note: programs are held in sun, rain, hot and cold conditions, so have your students prepared.
Comfort Gear: Biting insects may be present during your visit so insect repellant is advised.. Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses is also advised.
Meals: Students and chaperones may bring their own food or the group’s coordinator may arrange with Okefenokee Adventures Inc., at (912) 496-7156 for prepared lunches and dinners for the group. Additional restaurants are located in Folkston 12 miles away. Outdoor picnic tables are available on a first come, first served basis. It is also advised to carry an adequate water supply for the students and chaperones.
Electronic Devices: Students must leave all electronic devices including music players, handheld games, cell phones, pagers etc. on their bus or at home. This will reduce distractions and enhance their refuge experience.
For Special Needs: The staff of Okefenokee NWR encourages students with special needs to participate in programs as much as possible. Please contact the Environmental Education Coordinator at (912) 496-7836 before your visit to discuss any special arrangements and/or program adjustments.
Once You Arrive
Discipline: Teachers and chaperones are responsible for making sure their students stay with their group and follow all refuge rules and precautions. Loud noise and other disruptive behavior can spoil the experience for other visitors and scare away wildlife. Running, yelling and pushing is not allowed on trails or inside buildings. Chaperones should be interspersed among students to help maintain order. Wherever possible, students and chaperones should also wear easy-to-read nametags so that rangers can make their visit more personal.
Parking: Buses must park in the lower parking area after unloading students at curb. All other vehicles should park in the upper parking area. Every vehicle must have an entrance pass displayed on its dashboard. Entrance passes are picked up at the fee booth or Okefenokee Adventures. Vehicles may not idle for more than 15 minutes.
Wildlife/Plants: All animals and plants on the refuge are protected. Feeding, collecting and harassing wildlife is strictly prohibited. Please leave all plants and other natural objects in the refuge. Remind them to “Take only pictures, leave only foot prints.”
Visitor Center: Please have no more than 30 students with chaperones in the Visitor Center at one time. The exception is the auditorium, which can seat up to 100 people for films and programs. To keep the visitor center clean, no food or drinks are allowed inside. To prevent injuries to students and wildlife, students are allowed behind the visitor center ONLY when a chaperone is present.
Boat Dock Area: No running is allowed in or near the boat dock area. It is especially important to keep the group together here. Students may go inside Okefenokee Adventures as long as they are accompanied by chaperones.
Trash: Okefenokee NWR recycles! All trash and recyclables should be disposed of in the appropriate bins. Please ensure trash on tables and ground is disposed of properly. Inform visitor center or Okefenokee Adventures staff if additional trash bags are needed.
Restrooms: Restrooms are located at the visitor center, Okefenokee Adventures building, picnic area, and Swampwalk boardwalk parking area. Portable toilets are available at the Chesser Island Homestead.
Swimming: No swimming or wading is allowed in the refuge.
After Your Visit
Post-trip Activities: Students should complete post-visit activities and other appropriate activities to reinforce what they have learned.
Contact Us: If you have any questions and comments, please contact the Environmental Education Coordinator by phone (912)496-7836, or by mail at: Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, 2700 Suwannee Canal Road, Folkston, GA 31537