By Sarah Vega for The Island Eye News
Two island residents, Stella Childress and Bennett Gilhuly of Sullivan’s Island, recently participated in University School of the Lowcountry’s (USL) annual Middle School trip. From February 22-27, the 6th through 8th grade students explored points of interest, historical sites, and military facilities throughout Alabama and Florida.
The first stop of the trip was in Atmore, AL to visit with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which is the only federally recognized tribe in the state. The tribe has around 3,000 enrolled members, and Childress enjoyed getting to know them.
“We learned about their culture and played stick ball, which is a game the tribe would play to settle disagreements instead of going to war. It was really challenging and violent,” she shared.
Childress also enjoyed visiting NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where they were able to see the shuttle launch pads via tour bus and get an up close look at the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Perhaps the most unique stop of the trip was in Pinecraft, Florida, a popular vacation spot for the Amish. Childress said eating at Yoder’s, one of two traditional Amish restaurants in the community, was memorable for both the delicious food and welcoming people.
For Gilhuly, visiting Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL offered the most memorable moments of the trip.
The students were able to explore the USS Drum, the oldest American submarine on public display, as well as the Battleship USS Alabama.
“It towered over us like the tip of Mt. Everest,” Gilhuly said. “We began to grow tired as we went down its hundreds of stairs. They kept going down, deeper, and deeper. It was as deep as the Mariana Trench!” he said.
The annual trip is an extension of USL’s Learning Outside the Classroom program, which engages students in weekly field trips to explore everything from military bases and local governments to plantations and houses of worship. These experiential learning field trips provide students the opportunity to make connections between what they’ve learned in the classroom and what is going on in the world around them.
During the trip, students also visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Gulfquest, the National Naval Aviation Museum and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Mission San Luis, Florida State University and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the Tampa Bay Times and environmental reporter, Craig Pittman, The Ringling Art Museum, and Castillo de San Marcos.
Gilhuly’s mother, Kimberly Brown, attested to the positive impacts of the trip on her family, including her husband Brian Gilhuly, who served as a chaperone for the trip, when she shared, “Both Bennett and Brian had a million stories to tell me about the sights they saw and experiences they had. I am grateful Bennett had such as hands-on in-depth learning experience through University School.”