Elachee Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

For Elachee’s 41st year, educational naturalists gathered for semi-annual training on Georgia curriculum standards and teaching techniques/best practicies prior to a busy spring season!

A master astronomer, senior naturalists, water quality experts, retired teachers and Master’s degree candidates walk into a classroom. The first question on everyone’s mind: Are there donuts? The second question: How to best enrich programming for the 15,000 school children from 17 north Georgia counties that are scheduled to participate in Elachee field trips and Elachee in Your Classroom outreaches this March through May?

Alison Thompson, Isabel Buonapane and Laurin Peacock participate in a nature scavenger hunt, identifying Elachee’s winter trees throughout the Chicopee Woods Preserve. Elachee’s educational team recently completed semi-annual training to hone their knowledge and sharpen their skills in anticipation of a VERY busy spring 2020 season. Although each naturalist has a favorite topic, or may bring a particular expertise to the program, collectively, these instructors are continuously learning themselves. Why? They’re excited and passionate about the natural earth and ecology and want to share their passion and knowledge with PreK-12 students during each and every Elachee STEAM-based environmental education course. These educators help bring to life curriculum students are learning in their classrooms, whether welcoming students on their field trips to Elachee’s Main Campus in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, at the Lake Lanier Aquatic Learning Center or through Elachee in Your Classroom outreach programs.

How do these skilled professionals stay on top of their game? Sharing best practices. Seasoned educators along with sure-footed new additions to the Elachee team meet to exchange ideas and together revitalize Elachee programming at minimum twice a year. Last month, nearly two dozen Elachee Naturalists gathered to plan best practices for the spring 2020 field trip season, engage in team-building activities and collaboratively refine Elachee’s educational program content. Elachee’s 2020 Spring Naturalist Team at the Lake Lanier Aquatic Learning Center within Hall County’s River Forks Park, perfecting the lesson plans for 3rd-12th grade water quality programming.

This semi-annual training is a substantial contributor to the Elachee’s organization’s commitment to provide quality educational ecology experiences for students throughout the region. As the only SACS/AdvancED-accredited Nature Center in the southeastern U.S., Elachee’s unique program offerings are a perfect choice for teachers and group leaders. This time-tested programming provides their students with supplemental learning through interactive curriculum that complements grade level standards. Elachee’s PreK-12 ecology programs correlate directly with the Georgia Standards for Excellence (GSE) and Gwinnett County Public Schools Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS).

“Every staff member brings essential qualities to the education team and this training was able to showcase those talents. It was amazing to watch the staff connect and commit to educate young minds. We are extremely lucky to have such a diverse and passionate staff at Elachee,” the Education Programs Manager comments, “These educators will make and have made positive, lasting impacts on many learners of all ages.”

This naturalist training session focused on life cycles of plants and animals within the Chicopee Woods; relevant because Georgia school curriculums highlight concepts such as metamorphosis and life cycles of living organisms in their spring calendars. For the remainder of this school year, Elachee has already scheduled over 650 students to participate in the Stream Life program, for example. This hands-on and highly interactive program takes students into the creeks of Chicopee Woods. Here they will catch and identify macroinvertebrates and conduct chemical tests on these streams to determine water quality. Students from all over north Georgia will participate in this program topic and contribute to keeping Chicopee Woods streams safe and measured for all the species who call the Nature Preserve home.

Now that the weather is starting to improve, students also have the opportunity to join Elachee educators aboard the Chota Princess II floating classroom at the Lake Lanier Aquatic Learning Center (LLALC). Over 2,850 students are currently scheduled to experience one of Elachee’s most requested aquatic studies programs, while analyzing and exploring Georgia’s most important lake. Elachee conducts this popular program in partnership with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Hall County Parks and Recreation Department. Title One schools are eligible for financial aid consideration for the LLALC program courtesy Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, while funding is available. In fact, Elachee is already booking fall 2020 and spring 2021 aquatic studies field trips.

Field trips to Elachee are also in high demand every spring and fall. “Teachers who call or send an online program request in early fall have the absolute best chance of securing their ideal dates for field trips,” explains Elachee’s Program Registrar, Kristin Love. She books the majority of the spring calendar in the months of October-December each year.

“Typically by the end of January, the majority of our spring dates are full with large group sizes. If teachers have custom programming or large group sizes like full grade levels, I would definitely recommend reaching out as early as possible,” Kristin advises.

What happens if teachers are unable to book their preferred field trip date? Elachee does still have space to bring the Elachee in Your Classroom outreach programs to area schools this spring. “We bring Elachee’s innovative programming to you. No worrying about booking buses, transporting lunches, or excusing students from other classes,” shares Kristin. “All you need to do is reserve us a space in your gym, media center or elsewhere, and we handle everything else.”

Looking Ahead

Elachee is currently booking for the 2020-2021 academic year! Interested in scheduling an Elachee environmental education program?

Call 770-535-1976 or complete an online scheduling request form for the grade-appropriate course topic and date you prefer.