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Kiwanis launches project to send Bulloch grades 1-5 students to GS field trip sites
Destinations: Museum, Botanic Garden, Wildlife Center, Planetarium, Gretsch Music Collection
Cheryl Ciucevich, center, a Georgia Southern University development director, expresses thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro after receiving the $20,800 check for Project Eaglet on behalf of the university’s foundation. Also seen here at the Thursday,
Cheryl Ciucevich, center, a Georgia Southern University development director, expresses thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro after receiving the $20,800 check for Project Eaglet on behalf of the university’s foundation. Also seen here at the Thursday, Aug. 4, Kiwanis meeting are, from left, Bulloch County School Superintendent Charles Wilson, GS Vice President for Enrollment Management Scot Lingrell and, at right, Kiwanis Club President John Banter. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

With the presentation of a $20,800 check Thursday, the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro launched a cooperative project to send all Bulloch County Schools first- through fifth-grade students on field trips to one of five outreach centers on the Statesboro campus of Georgia Southern University this school year.

If the program continues for five years, students now in first grade, by the time they complete fifth grade, will have visited the Georgia Southern Museum, the Botanic Garden, the Center for Wildlife Education with its Lamar Q Ball Jr. Raptor Center, the Georgia Southern University Planetarium and, the newest attraction, the Gretsch Collection of musical instruments and experiences.

That continuation is not yet a certainty. But this year, when it is considered a pilot program, each grade, first through fifth, will have an opportunity to visit one of those sites, not for a random tour but for a field trip with a planned curriculum and hands-on activities, noted Statesboro Kiwanis President John Banter. With all nine Bulloch County Schools elementary schools included, nearly 4,100 students will be able to participate without having to ask parent-teacher organizations or principals for special funding.

“I know that a lot of those students, some of them did get to go at different times, but a lot of that would be put onto the PTOs supplying the funding for that; some of the schools do that as well, but this will allow every Bulloch County Schools student in first through fifth grade … to go and do this,” Banter said.

He called it a partnership of the club, the school system and the university and noted that a team of Bulloch County Schools staff members have worked with the five Georgia Southern centers to develop the learning plans.

“What we’ve done at the school district is we’ve aligned to the state standards for each grade level to ensure that we’re sending them to the right locations,” said Crystal Simpkins, Bulloch Schools director of early learning and literacy. “Like when they go to the planetarium that grade level is studying the universe, the stars, planets and the moon, so when they go there, they’ll find it more enriching toward the state standards.”


‘Project Eaglet’

This effort has been dubbed “Project Eaglet,” because of the near certainty that some of the young participants will grow up to become Georgia Southern “Eagles.” That idea wasn’t lost on Georgia Southern staff members, several of whom attended the Kiwanis Club’s lunch meeting along with school system representatives.

“We’re so excited for this program, and as the vice president for enrollment management, I know how important it is to keep the best and the brightest right here in Bulloch County, and so I want to thank all of the people who have been involved in the work to make this happen,” said Scot Lingrell, Ph.D.

He and county School Superintendent Charles Wilson thanked the Kiwanis before Banter presented the check for the Georgia Southern University Foundation to Cheryl Ciucevich, a director of development in the University Advancement office.


Annual celebration

According to university officials, the Kiwanis Club’s funding will cover any admission charges at the centers, programming costs for the lessons, items for the children and an annual celebration at the end of each school year. Plans are for the celebration to be held on Sweetheart Circle, “and the kids will be able to come back and bring their families and experience any one of the centers with their families,” Ciucevich said.

Four of the outreach centers have been field trip destinations for years. The university’s Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music, which received that name in February 2021, will be working with the museum to present the newest attraction, the Gretsch Collection, with some experiences of instruments and sound for the children, she said.

Dan Hagan, Ph.D., a Georgia Southern professor emeritus of biology and for 40 years a Statesboro Kiwanis member, had suggested the project to the club’s education committee and board, on which he serves.

Hagan credited Wilson with making the program possible by agreeing for the school system to provide transportation and travel lunches. Transporting the more than 4,000 children will involve school bus trips from as far as Portal, Nevils and Stilson and back, which Hagan noted entails costs not covered by the club’s donation.

“So it is an awesome thing,” Hagan said. “And too, coming off of the pandemic these children are desperately needing to have this educational enrichment opportunity to support them in thinking and learning of exciting opportunities outside their own classroom and outside their homes.”

The Kiwanis contribution will come from money raised by the club’s major annual events, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair and Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo. The club also funds annual scholarships, and Hagan noted that “Kids Need Kiwanis” is a Kiwanis International campaign slogan.

“The idea for this year was that this would be a pilot for the project and we’ll measure the effectiveness of what they’re doing,” Banter said after the meeting.  “So Bulloch County Schools is going to be doing some learning assessment with the students as they’re doing this, and then we’ll be able to evaluate how we can support that moving forward.”  

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