ATHENS — Each spring, thousands of K-12 students attend environmental education camps at Georgia 4-H facilities across the state. They hold snakes, hike through creeks and marshes, visit historic sites and enjoy nature; all with a goal of learning about the environment. Since the COVID-19 outbreak has public schools closed, school buses parked and Georgians sheltered in place, the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program is now being offered virtually.
To continue reaching students, Georgia 4-H centers have created “From The Mountains To The Sea,” an online educational series. The lessons began on March 30 and a new lesson will be added every weekday through May 22.
“Thousands of K-12 grade students and teachers would have filled our 4-H facilities this spring, building memories and bringing learning to life using Georgia as a classroom without walls,” Melanie Biersmith, associate state 4-H leader, said. “We hope that by offering these short programs each weekday, we can give youths and adults a way to stay connected to our facilities and our programs during this time when we aren’t able to physically participate in field studies. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to our facilities and give students these experiences in person, once it is safe to do so.”
Each weekday afternoon, a different Georgia 4-H center uploads or live streams an environmental education lesson. Lessons will cover a range of topics such as herpetology, entomology and beach or stream ecology as well as highlight specific amenities at the 4-H centers including historic landmarks, salt marshes, tidal creeks, natural history museums and species exhibits.
During the first week of lessons, the series reached more than 17,000 people. Topics included a tour of the Rock Eagle 4-H Center Wildlife Laboratory during feeding time, a lesson on diamondback terrapin turtles on Tybee Island, macroinvertebrates and stream ecology in the Georgia mountains, a walk through the maritime forest on Jekyll Island and an introduction to the farm area at Fortson 4-H Center.
As one of the nation’s largest providers of residential environmental education, the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program provides opportunities for high-quality day and overnight educational experiences. The research-based curriculum correlates to the Georgia Standards of Excellence and provides hands-on learning in the context of the real world. Since the program began in 1979, it has reached over 1.2 million students.
Georgia 4-H offers environmental education at each of its six facilities: Rock Eagle 4-H Center located in the piedmont in Eatonton; Wahsega 4-H Center in the Dahlonega mountains; Fortson 4-H Center in Hampton, near Atlanta; Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island, and Georgia 4-H at Camp Jekyll and 4-H Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island.
To join in on the lessons, follow the Georgia 4-H Centers on social media or review the lessons in the series archive at georgia4h.org/environmental-education/from-the-mountains-to-the-sea-archive.
The centers and their Facebook pages are:
♦ Rock Eagle 4-H Center for Mondays at The Mound, www.facebook.com/RockEagle4HCenter/;
♦ Burton 4-H Center for Tuesdays on Tybee, www.facebook.com/Burton4H/;
♦ Wahsega 4-H Center for Wahsega Wednesdays, www.facebook.com/wahsega4h/;
♦ Fortson 4-H Center for Fortson Farm Fridays, www.facebook.com/Fortson4HCenter/.
Georgia 4-H empowers students to become leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships, and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 242,000 people annually through the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offices and 4-H facilities.
For more information, visit georgia4h.org or contact a local extension office.