Presentation Title

A Service Learning Partnership for Wilderness Education in Coastal Georgia

Document Type


Presentation Date


Abstract or Description

Service learning is a form of experiential education that requires students to conduct meaningful volunteer work that enhances learning outcomes in academic courses. Effective service learning requires a clear link between academic objectives and the needs of the host organization. When properly implemented, it promotes academic achievement, community awareness, and interpersonal skills, while allowing the host organization to accomplish goals that would often remain unmet due to a lack of funding and other resources. Service learning has considerable potential as a means of promoting both Wilderness education and stewardship of public lands. In March 2014, students from an environmental education and interpretation course at Georgia Southern University planned and delivered formal and informal interpretive talks on the Wilderness Act of 1964 and Leave No Trace principles for Natural Resource Discovery Day, a community event hosted by the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. The talks defined the Wilderness Act of 1964 for all age groups, explained its importance and relevance throughout the last 50 years, and advocated for responsible stewardship of local Wilderness areas. Participants were also educated on the use of Leave No Trace principles as a means of minimizing depreciative behavior in Wilderness environments. Discovery Day participants were generally unaware of federally protected Wilderness and did not realize that the Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex manages two Wilderness areas in coastal Georgia: Blackbeard Island and Wolf Island. Leave No Trace principles were also new to Discovery Day participants, who seemed receptive to practices designed to minimize recreation impacts on Georgia’s unique Wilderness resources. The students who delivered the talks stated that class project increased their understanding of the Wilderness Act, Tilden’s principles of interpretation, and the use of indirect management strategies. They also noted that the experience resulted in a greater appreciation for the mission of the USDI Fish & Wildlife Service and the importance of partnerships in promoting stewardship of public lands. Collectively, the project provides evidence of the potential inherent in service learning as a means of educating diverse stakeholders about the importance of Wilderness and the need to protect it as an enduring legacy for future generations.


National Wilderness Conference


Albuquerque, NM