Liz French, a STEAM Coordinator with the Jefferson City Schools, offers our next story about protected land that is utilized by the school system to provide students with opportunities to get outside in the natural world. ORLT is proud to work in partnership with the Jefferson City Board of Education to protect this valuable piece of property.
When asked to reminisce about childhood, many adults will recall fond memories of playing outside - exploring nature and their neighborhoods, playing games with friends and family, building collections of rocks and leaves, jumping in creeks, climbing in parks, etc. As Georgia and our local areas grow, though, the development of natural areas into subdivisions, businesses, and other built areas (along with new technologies) has had a significant impact affecting how children spend time outside. This trend continues in our schools, as students spend more time using technology for lessons and in manmade playground environments for recess. To help address this issue, it is important to protect natural lands and create opportunities for children to experience them.
In December 2004, a group of hunters who owned a large wetlands property along the Middle Oconee River right outside Jefferson, Georgia entered into a perpetual conservation easement with the Oconee River Land Trust for the purpose of assuring that the property will be “retained forever predominantly in its natural, scenic, wetland, forested and open space condition.” In 2017, these hunters graciously donated their land to the Jefferson City Board of Education, allowing for the Jefferson City School System to incorporate this incredible space into its PreK-12 instructional program - working to reconnect students with their local natural resources and ecosystems in ways that are not always possible for some families and neighborhoods. This conserved land is utilized during the school year for field trips to address a wide variety of environmental topics, class field trips for aquatic studies, afterschool hikes, family events, and volunteer events for students and our community. Thanks to the work of ORLT and our dedicated teachers, we can teach about and encourage a love of our beautiful local lands.