A local high school student and Lula Lake volunteer recently told me a story about hiking with a friend here in Northwest Georgia. She fell and cut her leg, which caused her friend to worry because they had forgotten to bring a medical kit. Unfazed, the student calmly searched a nearby patch of moss for just the right antidote to her problem. She placed an appropriately sized swath of the ancient plant over her cut and waited for the ensuing magic. Her friend was amazed at the result, but this was no magic! First-Aid without a trip to the hospital was possible because this young person knew enough about the land to seek protection in it. Of course, this particular student has people in her life who taught her about such practices from an early age. As a result, she recognizes the value of protecting natural spaces, and she knows this is a gift.
How can we, as a society, share this kind of knowledge and wisdom in order to inspire new generations of Earth stewards? I would offer that it all starts with education! That is, it is difficult to love a being or a place we do not know or understand; and most people are reluctant to expend energy and resources protecting what they do not love. Some children may receive this ilk of education at home; others may not. However, if more schools offer learning experiences in and about the natural world, such crucial awareness will flow from the woods and creeks, into the classroom, to families at home and back again, gathering gems of wisdom along the way.
Indeed, if we can agree that a healthy curiosity about the world around us is inherently valuable, then we can fathom what makes Lula Lake such a fabulous place for students and teachers to exercise that curiosity. To begin with, the core property alone is an incredibly rich laboratory-in-waiting where students can ask endless questions of the flora, fauna, land, water and air. For example, what color flowers do butterflies like best? What characteristics help Hemlock trees battle their modern nemesis, the Woolly Adelgid? If we lose all of our Hemlocks, which trees will replace them along creeks to keep the water cool for fishes, amphibians and aquatic insects? How are trees like people? If you were to paint a picture of an ecosystem from stream bed to ridge top, what would it look like?
Clearly, I could go on; but hopefully readers grasp the message that Lula Lake is an ideal atmosphere for area public, charter, private and home school groups to build and maintain outdoor classrooms. As we set out in the creek, at the pollinator garden, around the fossil pit, on the rocks, among the trees and amidst the wildflowers, let’s construct a vibrant outdoor component to indoor learning. Why not get our feet wet, our hands dirty and let our imaginations run amok with creative and concrete ways to connect the artificial with the organic and the theoretical with the experiential? Let’s join the ranks of so many passionate farmers, gardeners, biologists and naturalists to motivate a more environmentally conscious and knowledgeably rooted human populace; and let’s start with our young people.
Are you an interested teacher, parent, community educator or student? Can you envision the ways in which we might work together to incorporate nature based learning at Lula Lake into your curriculum? Contact us so we can get started this school year! Write Holley, program coordinator, here: hroberts ‘at’ lulalake.org.