Fish, turtles, birds, alligators and snakes, oh my! While those topics might be scary to some, students from across the state are learning about the eco-regions of Georgia as well as conservation, wildlife, habitats and adaptations through the educational programs that are offered at the Go Fish Georgia Education Center in Perry.
Through the Field Trip program, the Toad-ally Toddlers! program and the Homeschool Program, students are given a chance to take an up-close look at animals that can be found around the state as well as information about natural resources in Georgia. Marion Baker, lead educator at Go Fish said the field trip programs that are offered are aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards so they can easily be incorporated into lessons for the different grade levels.
“Ultimately, our core mission is to promote fishing and fishing opportunities, and to create a culture of conservation,” she said. “Fishing is one of the main things. We include it in all of our field trips now. Essentially, any of the standards in all of the grades … you can incorporate fishing. It is also a good way to introduce students to fishing. Parents may not know how to do it (get) the chance to do it while they are here. If they like it, then they can always come back.”
The field trips generally include a guided aquarium tour, an educational program in the lab, a fishing lesson and time to explore the fishing and hunting simulators in the gallery. Baker said she has several topics for the teachers to pick from for the trips. The cost is $5 for students and chaperones, while teachers and bus drivers are admitted free. The field trips are scheduled from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, but Baker said the time can be flexible.
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“We like to make teachers happy and try to accommodate as best we can,” she said, adding that only 100 students are scheduled per day. “Third grade is our most popular grade that comes. We stay pretty much booked.”
The Homeschool Program, which is designed for kindergarten through sixth grade, also stays full. Held the first and third Fridays of each month from September through May, the topics in this program change monthly, according to Baker. Some of the upcoming scheduled topics include Rocks and Minerals, Life Cycles, Food Webs and Hazards of the Outdoors. The curriculum includes lessons, hands-on educational activities, experiments, guided tours, dissections, live animals, take-home worksheets/activities and time to explore the gallery and outside exhibits. Registration for this program, starts in August and fills up quickly, with only 20 student slots for each session. Cost is $5 per person, with siblings under age three free.
“In August, when we opened (for registration), it filled up within four hours of the email going out,” Baker said, adding that there are generally quite a few cancellations, so people on the waiting list are often getting the chance to attend the sessions.
“In the past year, we’ve dissected owl pellets, fish and worms and still have another dissection planned for this March,” she said, adding that parents have especially expressed their appreciation for the dissections.
Bonaire mom Nicole Swain, who has brought her three sons to most of the home school events at the center during the past year, sat in on Friday’s session on “Oceans.” She explained that her family is on its second time of being stationed at Robins Air Force Base, and they are planning to make the area their permanent home. Consequently, she thinks the program provides a wonderful opportunity for her children to learn more about Georgia.
Swain said her boys, James, 9, Colin, 7, and Robert, 4, enjoy visiting the center because it is “like a small museum … they are not overwhelmed, and they intimately know the whole place.” The program also provides them with the opportunity to get to know other kids.
“They do a good job of hands-on instructional learning,” she said. “It’s good for different ages.”
“I like playing games mostly,” expressed James Swain. “I like this place. It’s special because of the outdoor exhibits. This place is really cool. It’s amazing.”
Katie Weimer, of Warner Robins, and Christine Waddle, of Kathleen, also brought their children to the session on “Oceans.” Weimer and Waddle, who each had an older child in the session on “Oceans,” waited outside the center’s educational classroom while watching their younger children interact with points of interest in the center. Weimer said the program is a “hidden gem,” providing a great educational opportunity for her son, Jack, 6, while her younger children enjoy exploring the museum area outside the classroom.
“(Jack) feels like he is doing science when he comes here,” she said. “It’s one of the most educational programs that is affordable.”
“They really enjoy walking and looking … there’s a lot of hands-on stuff,” explained Waddle.
The Toad-ally Toddlers! program for ages up to five is held from 9:15 a.m.-4 p.m. in four, one-hour sessions on the fourth Friday of each month except in November and December, Baker said. This program includes animal encounters, story time, sing-a-longs, arts and crafts and other hands-on educational activities, all focused on a particular theme, which changes monthly. Although siblings are welcome to attend, the curriculum is primarily designed for two to four year olds and has the Georgia Early Learning Development Standards incorporated into the curriculum. Admission price is $5 per adult, $3 for kids three to 12 and free for children ages two and younger.
Although the center is closed on Mondays, Baker said the facility is open to the public on Friday and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m.