Why do people love the outdoors? Many mention memorable outdoor experiences as a child. For others, nature’s sights, sounds and smells make them feel peaceful, refreshed, energized and more spiritually connected. Research shows that environmental education even improves student achievement.
Considering the benefits, why don’t we get outside more? Barriers include packed schedules and a plethora of electronic devices begging for our attention. Some people never had an outdoors mentor, so they fear what lurks outside. Or maybe they’re not sure how to access natural areas near them.
The good news is that for everyone from seasoned naturalists to novices, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers many opportunities to experience the benefits of the outdoors. In addition to wildlife management, public fishing and natural areas, as well as state parks, DNR and partner agencies operate seven regional education centers across the state:
- Arrowhead Environmental Education Center in Armuchee (near Rome).
- Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield (east of Atlanta).
- Go Fish Education Center in Perry.
- Grand Bay Wetland Education Center near Valdosta.
- McDuffie Environmental Education Center in Dearing (near Augusta).
- Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve on Sapelo Island (near Darien).
- Smithgall Woods Regional Education Center near Helen.
The educational mission of DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division is to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of Georgia’s wildlife resources, fostering wise stewardship of these resources and promoting safe and ethical natural resource-based recreation. Primarily designed for children, regional education center activities are correlated to the Georgia Performance Standards.
Field trip reservations are being accepted for the 2011-2012 school year. Parents, teachers and school administrators are encouraged to take advantage of these great places to learn outside the classroom!
Some DNR education centers also offer teacher workshops and outreach programs, where staff brings live animals and nature props to schools and libraries. The public also can enjoy the trails, fishing ponds, archery and shooting ranges, and interpretive displays at many of these centers (state licenses apply).
Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center even has a conference center and banquet hall for renting, plus lodge rooms and plenty of public programs.
Opportunities vary at each center and may be limited to certain county school systems or reserved groups only, so check out the education centers near you at www.georgiawildlife.com/education.
Hope to see you in the great outdoors soon!
UPCOMING ED CENTER EVENTS INCLUDE:
- Growing Up WILD Teacher Workshop (for early childhood educators): 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Smithgall Woods. (706) 878-3087.
- Women in the Outdoors (ages 14 and older): Nov. 5 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. Pre-registration begins Oct. 5. (770) 784-3059.
- Georgia Shorebirds Conservation Teacher Workshop: Dec. 1-4 at Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. (912) 266-2473.