Finding What You Want to Do

Education Programs Specialist Wes Hatch joined the Elachee team in August. Go on a hike with Wes and he’ll share why the path sparkles so much in the sunlight (mica in the rocks), which acorns are the most nutritious and tasty for foragers (those from the White Oak) and why an Orange Witch’s Hat Mushroom has funny white lines etched across its cap (a slug did it).

Wes Hatch, Elachee Education Programs Specialist, is a naturalist by choice.Growing up near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Wes discovered his love for nature there and in Florida when visiting his grandparents.

“My grandmother would take my brother and me to the swamp to see alligators and would point out all the birds. In college, I thought about majoring in zoology but my parents, who are both CPAs, encouraged me to focus on business.”

Wes came to Atlanta to work a desk job, but quickly realized he hated being stuck indoors. He embarked on a different adventure that led to experiences as an intern and camp counselor at Chattahoochee Nature Center. Wes confides, “I knew I’d found what I wanted to do.”

When asked what he likes best about working at Elachee, Wes explains “I get to be outside and work with animals and people. But I don’t just teach other people about nature. I get to learn something new and grow as a person every day. It doesn’t matter if someone is seven or 70, they may know something about an animal or plant that is new to me.”

A large part of his role at Elachee is teaching school-age children. “I especially love it when children tell me something new. They realize how cool nature is and develop confidence in themselves. Their eyes light up when they realize that having some knowledge to share gives them the power to be a teacher, too.”

Wes, like the other skilled Elachee educators, get children outside to explore the wonderful diversity of the natural world during school field trips to the Nature Center and by taking the Elachee in Your Classroom programs to schools in the greater metro Atlanta and north Georgia region.

“I encourage children to touch things, get a little dirt and mud on their hands, to touch the bark of a tree to feel whether it’s rough or smooth,” he says. “I’m a kinetic learner myself and retain information better if I can touch things, instead of just listening to someone talk about them.”

Wes continues, “I’ve worked with some kids who have never been out in the woods before. If you hear something scurrying in the leaves, it can actually sound a lot larger than it is. A lizard, for example, can sound like a deer going through the woods. Plus, out here, you can be going on a hike and not even notice you’re exercising because you’re so immersed in what’s around you.”

What really gets Wes revved up is birding. “I’ve been a big birder for 10 years. It gets me moving and de-stresses me,” he shares. “Birds have taken me all over. I’ve traveled around the U.S. and visited every county in Georgia (that’s 159) to look for birds.” In following his passion, Wes has discovered that birds have regional accents, a bit like humans do. “I love listening to them.”

His challenge to you? Help a child get excited by the green of the leaves, something wiggling across the trail or birds calling overhead. Introduce a child in your life to nature.

Camp Elachee: Where Nature is the Adventure

One sure-fire way to help a child become comfortable with the natural world is at Camp Elachee. Check out the Camp Elachee 2020 day camps planned for spring break (April 6-10, 2020), as well as nine themed weekly summer day camps (June 1-July 31, 2020). 

Wes will also be the Camp Elachee liaison for the 2020 Counselors-in-Training Leadership Program available for youth entering grades 9-12 in the fall.

Camp Elachee 2020 registration is now open. Visit elachee.org/camp-elachee for details about Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle School summer day camps held at Elachee Nature Science Center.