Ask The 4-H Agent: ‘What is Environmental Education?’

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By Kelly Zern, 4-H Youth Development Agent, UGA Extension Coweta County

According to the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia, environmental education promotes experiences that connect students with nature.  It not only takes learning outside the walls of the classroom and into the environment, but also teaches academic and life lessons.

Stanford University experts researched the effects of environmental education and found that students who participated in environmental education programs not only gained awareness for the environment, but also learned other skills including critical thinking, academic achievement, civic engagement and personal growth.

In 1979, Georgia 4-H began an Environmental Education program at Camp Rock Eagle in Eatonton, GA to create opportunities to teach science with an environmental context. Over the last 40 years, 1.1 million students from 500 different schools have visited and experienced what Georgia 4-H calls “living laboratories.”  In these living laboratories, the environmental education classes are taught by trained educators at six of the 4-H State facilities including Rock Eagle in Eatonton, Wahsega in Dahlonega, Camp Jekyll on Jekyll Island, Burton on Tybee Island, and Fortson in Hampton.  Each facility has classes that align to Georgia Standards of Excellence for grades K-12 in all subject areas.

The year 2020 has brought some changes to the programming, but the education has continued.  Parents and students can still participate in the environmental education in a variety of ways.  The Georgia 4-H website has a video series entitled “From the Mountains to the Sea,” which has educational learning segments on a variety of topics from each Georgia 4-H center.

Additionally, Wahsega in Dahlonega has scheduled fun environmental education classes every Tuesday and Friday in January and February at 1 p.m. These in-person classes are geared towards homeschooled youth ages 4-12 and include classes on stream ecology, entomology, herpetology, pioneer life and survival.  The cost is $10 per person and requires a reservation.  After the classes are taught, families and groups can spend more time exploring camp trails through the Chattahoochee National Forest or they can bring food to eat on the grounds of the camp.  

If you thought that was all, there is more!  Teachers and home school groups can schedule virtual field trips with Rock Eagle 4-H Center or Wahsega. The cost is $50 and program choices include herpetology, raptors, pioneer tools, and honeybees.

With the options available, you can see how environmental education plays a strong role in Georgia 4-H programming.  To learn more about specific programs offered at each Georgia 4-H facility, visit georgia4h.org and click on the Environmental Education link. There you can navigate the options available at each center.

In Coweta County, we provide a wide array of year-long programs and opportunities for youth to learn through hands-on activities.  To find out more about our local programs, check out our website at ugaextension.org/Coweta, or find us on Facebook at Coweta County 4-H UGA Extension.

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Kelly Zern is the Coweta County 4-H Youth Development Agent. Her role includes overseeing all 4-H programming in the county including specialty clubs, S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) teams, volunteers, schools clubs, and other 4-H programs and events. It is through her leadership and collaborations with community leaders that she can achieve Georgia 4-H’s mission to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society. 

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