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Contact: Rudy Evenson, Park Information Officer, 678-538-1241
Sandy Springs: This fall, the National Park Service brought over 800 elementary school students on free field trips to Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) through the National Park Foundation’s “Ticket to Ride” grant. The field trips benefited specific schools in the metro Atlanta area where at least 90% of students have income levels qualifying for free or reduced lunches. The goal of the field trips was to get students comfortable with being in nature in a fun and safe learning environment, and to increase awareness of the park and its resources among students with limited opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Park staff organized the field trips as the central component of a three-step educational program. First, park rangers conducted a pre-trip visit in the classroom to let students know what to expect in the field. Next, rangers met students at Powers Island, one of the most popular sites at CRNRA, and led them on nature hikes. Finally, rangers conducted a post-trip visit to the classroom to help students reflect on what they learned. Students were asked to either write or draw to capture their thoughts about the field trip. Their work will then be displayed at the CRNRA’s Island Ford Visitor Center.
The “Ticket to Ride” field trip program could not have been a success without the support of several key partners, beginning with the Cobb and Fulton County school districts. In addition, both the Fulton County and Cobb County Water Departments also provided student activities during the field trips. A cadre of park volunteers helped with a myriad of details, from keeping hiking groups together to helping put on puppet shows. To make the program available for an additional school to participate, the partnering bus company agreed to provide a complementary bus. Finally, the park friends group, the Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy, also contributed funds to pay for a busload of students.
“Our students are mostly living in apartment homes and do not have opportunities to enjoy being outside. The experience that the children had on the field trip was a first time experience for the majority of them,” said Debbie Hartnett, a participating teacher. “Noticing the trees, ground, leaves, river, Canada geese, nuts, burrows, smells, the river, and all the hike provided will make learning the habitat standards more meaningful for our students.”
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