Grant Benefits Students in Forsyth County Schools

February 26, 2021 (Gainesville, Ga.) – Thanks to an extraordinary grant award from The Chantal and Tommy Bagwell Foundation, every 3rd grade student in the Forsyth County Schools school district will have the opportunity this spring to participate in Elachee Nature Science Center’s Habitat is Home environmental education program – at no charge to the student or school! New Elachee Nature Science Center vans for school outreach programs made possible thanks to the generosity of The Chantal and Tommy Bagwell Foundation.

This grant was originally intended to underwrite access for 3rd graders to visit Elachee for field trips or to deploy teaching naturalists to individual schools for Elachee in Your Classroom grade-level outreach programming. Anticipating that teaching naturalists would be on the road most days during the school year traveling to and from these Forsyth County schools, the grant award also enabled Elachee to purchase two new cargo vans and brand them with native Georgia species to support this outreach programming.  

In early December 2020, Elachee alerted each 3rd Grade teacher in Forsyth County Schools of this grant-funded environmental education opportunity. For spring semester 2021, Elachee is teaching a standards-based Habitat is Home program to complement classroom instruction. Delivered by teaching naturalists via Elachee’s new Interactive Distance Learning format, this virtual instruction is a program delivery alternative due to the school district’s current Covid-19 restrictions on in-school and off-site field trips. Elachee piloted this virtual program format with other local and regional school systems during fall semester 2020. Elachee Nature Science Center Interactive Distance Learning programs are a virtual option when in-person instruction is not possible.

“We are thrilled to support teachers and students during this pandemic through a variety of teaching methods,” says Alison Thompson, Elachee’s Education Programs Manager.  “It is so important to encourage the students to stay connected to nature and help boost their curiosity, even when we can’t be there in person.”

Last June, aware of this pending gift to benefit students in Forsyth County Schools, the Elachee education programs team contacted the school district’s administrators to determine the greatest need for supplemental instruction, by topic and grade level. Their suggestion was that Elachee offer a program to go along with the integrated units for 3rd grade that cover Georgia’s native plants and animals within each region. Elachee’s dynamic Habitat is Home class engages students in an exploration of Georgia native animals and plants and their habitats and delves into the structural and behavioral adaptations of the plants and animals living within each region. 

How does Interactive Distance Learning work? An Elachee teaching naturalist conducts a live interactive experience with and simultaneously delivers a video program to students in the classroom and to those studying from home. When in-person programs are not possible, this alternate format offers the relevant curriculum and instructional quality educators have come to expect from Elachee, the only SACS/Cognia-accredited nature center in the southeastern U.S.

Forsyth County Schools' environmental education programming made possible by The Chantal and Tommy Bagwell Foundation.Elachee is providing these virtual experiences to PreK-12 students throughout the northeast Georgia region this academic year. However, students are visiting Elachee for field trips, just in smaller numbers this school year. Although the 3rd grade programming grant is specific to Forsyth County Schools, the Elachee education team is on the move most school days. These educators have been able to provide in-person Elachee in Your Classroom instruction at schools in Hall and Jackson Counties, as well as in numerous private schools throughout the region.  

“Our outreach programs bring a little piece of Elachee to the school,” explains Thompson. “The kids light up when they see our naturalists and all the educational materials we bring into their classrooms. We are happy to stay connected during this strange time and cannot wait until we see the students again, here at the Nature Center!”

Educators may visit www.elachee.org/school-programs to see available PreK-12 STEAM-based environmental education programming topics by grade and by format available spring 2021.

Visit www.elachee.org to learn more.