Spring is bursting forth in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve and the participants in the 2017 Georgia Master Naturalist Course were first-hand witnesses to this annual miracle of rebirth.
Elachee’s 2017 Georgia Master Naturalist Program Series opened up in fine fashion March 30th as both our presenter, Dr. Leslie Edwards, and the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve generously shared their respective gifts with the very appreciative members of the class.
Leslie, one of the tri-authors of The Natural Communities of Georgia, introduced the class to the physiographic regions of Georgia: the Ridge and Valley of northwest Georgia, the ancient Blue Ridge, the diverse Piedmont, the unique Coastal Plain and Georgia’s remarkable Maritime Coast. She then expertly identified the series of variables that help delineate the different plant and animal communities that exist in each region. These variables include soil moisture, pH, aspect – the direction that a hill or slope faces, soil and rock types, elevation or the level of disturbance – fire, flood etc. Once she completed her instruction, the Chicopee Woods took charge.
Each session in the program series includes a lecture followed by a hike. Leslie treated the class to a guided hike in Chicopee Woods – neither disappointed! White, Red and Chestnut Oaks towered over the dry acidic ridges at the head of the Ed Dodd Trail. Mountain laurel massed in the cooling comfort of a north-facing slope. A tapestry of Trillium, Mayapple, Bloodroot and other spring ephemeral flowers draped the hillsides.
Not to be ignored, the animal kingdom stepped up in a big way, too. Three large Rat Snakes, shiny and black as polished obsidian, languidly crossed the trails. An early avian migrant, a male Louisiana Water Thrush, hailed the group from Walnut Creek and then sang its territorial song from an overhead branch for all to see and hear.
As we neared the finish of our hike, Leslie was overheard saying, “We will never be able to top this hike!”
“As a true newcomer to the [Life Long Learning] classes at Elachee, this first session in the Master Naturalist course was really great!” comments Lee Boutwell. “I feel really energized by all the knowledge and experience flying around the classroom and the trail walk.”
“My family and I had this really cool conversation after dinner about Trillium,” shares Dr. Sarah Bridges-Rhoads, a Master Naturalist course participant and parent of two Elachee Nature Academy students. “As we clicked through the pictures I took today, Elena was adding information to what I had learned in class. It put this really cool spin on who is the expert, since I had just hiked with all these really knowledgeable adults. Elena added this whole new depth by sharing what she’d experienced over time in those woods,” as an Elachee Nature Academy student.
Sarah continues, “What I also loved about the class today was this emphasis on interdependence and relationships. I am teaching/designing a child development class and I am really trying to push against the common idea that children and nature develop apart from one another – as if they exist in completely different worlds that aren’t connected. This naturalist class is already providing me with so many ways to explore and think about this with my students.”
The 2017 Georgia Master Naturalist Program Series is an interactive 11-session course that explores local habitats and ecosystems. Elachee tailors the course for the local environment, within the framework developed by The University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension Service and the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.