Above: HCLT’s Kyle Pursel educates children from the Summit Charter School Heritage Club about stream salamanders, while holding a red salamander found in a stream at the Zachary-Tolbert House.
“KIDS IN NATURE ” – ONE ELEMENT OF THE HIGHLANDS-CASHIERS LAND TRUST EDUCATION PROGRAM
At the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, we work, not only to protect land and natural resources in the Highlands and Cashiers areas, but we also strive to promote the value of land conservation and to encourage good land stewardship practices by individuals in the community. This is the focus of our Education Program. In past years, we have reached out to the community by providing eco tours and educational speaker events, such as the Village Nature Series (co-hosted by the Village Green) and the Zahner Conservation Lecture Series. We continue to provide these events and grow the programs year after year, as we have found that the community enjoys and benefits from them.
As HCLT makes an effort to reach all members of the community, we believe in the importance of specifically educating children. Because children are the future stewards of the land, it is important for them to build strong connections to the natural world. For this reason, we have recently decided to grow our Education Program to include a specific element, which targets children. Our new “Kids in Nature” program will expand on some programs we have done in the past, as well as include some new programs.
This year, we are again going to be guiding weekly nature programs for the Town of Highlands Summer Rec Camp, as we did in 2011, and we are also going to be working with a number of other local organizations to provide fun and exciting nature and outdoor education programs. By working with a variety of groups in the Highlands and Cashiers areas, we will be reaching out to a diverse group of children in our communities. The programming we provide differs slightly with each group, but is always focused on getting the kids excited about being outside, teaching them about the natural world around them, and instilling in them an appreciation and respect for nature. We have been meeting with the Summit Charter School Heritage Club about once a month at the Zachary Tolbert House in Cashiers to educate kids about local natural heritage and outdoor skills. We are currently planning spring nature walks with the International Friendship Center of Highlands, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. And we will also be partnering with the Literacy Council of Highlands this summer to run a one-day summer camp, where we will take kids on an adventurous nature walk, while incorporating an interactive nature reference book.
We are excited about the “Kids in Nature” Program and look forward to working with each of these organizations. Our ability to grow this program is due to a grant we received late in 2012 from the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation. We are currently seeking more funding, as we hope to continue this program and grow it in the following years.