Docents have an interest in the natural world and a passion to share it with others
By Christie Hill, Naturalist Manager
Docents come to us in all ages and stages of life. All have an interest in the natural world and a passion to share it with others. Our docents are CNC ambassadors whose role is to be here to interact with our visitors.They know how to light a spark in others’ imagination, giving just enough information to encourage the interest to learn more. There is so much to enjoy about nature and docents are skilled in helping others find a connection to it.
What are the rewards you gain from being a CNC docent?
One CNC docent had this to say: Associating with bright, lively, and interesting people! The interaction with guests, and the satisfaction of being able to answer questions and introduce others to the natural world. Seeing their pleasure in learning things and listening to what they have to share—that’s one of the main aspects of being a docent. Interacting with all age groups keeps you on your toes!
CNC has been in operation for almost 50 years now and has grown with the community. The people here are professionals, generous with their knowledge, and fun to be around! This is an impressive docent program that gives one the flexibility to work within your own schedule.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Docent at CNC, check out our volunteer page and complete an application! Orientations are held twice a year and our next one is coming up soon in February 2023. We would love to welcome you to this rewarding opportunity to connect people with nature!
Cultural Kaleidoscope Partnership with Fulton County Schools
By Sam Leaf, Partnership & Outreach Specialist
One of the perks of working at CNC is that at any moment, I can leave my office, step outside, and be immersed in nature. This includes not only the sights of nature but the sounds as well. You can enjoy the sounds of a hawk soaring in the sky, a chorus of frogs in our ponds, or the many melodies of songbirds in our trees. But there is one sound that can top all of those, the sound of a yellow school bus pulling into our parking lot. Throughout the fall season, I have been able to sharpen my bus listening skills to the point where I can now discern a school bus from a lumbering garbage truck or even a hasty delivery truck from inside my office. I owe this heightened awareness to a wonderful partnership with Fulton County Schools that has kept the buses coming day after day.
This fall, CNC partnered with Fulton County Schools to participate in the first year of the Cultural Kaleidoscope program, a component of the Bridge to Success/Expanded Programs Option for Fulton County Schools. The vision of Cultural Kaleidoscope is to enrich students’ educational experiences beyond the classroom and support enhanced field trip opportunities that are Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) based. The program offers a field trip opportunity for students in each grade level: CNC was selected as the field trip site for Fulton County second graders. The experience comes at no cost to the schools or students and is generously supported by Fulton County Arts and Culture.
From September to mid-November, CNC hosted 59 schools and approximately 6,000 second graders. As part of the experience, students participated in our Creek and Cherokee program, led by our team of staff naturalists. Students explored our trails to investigate how the Creek and Cherokee obtained food, clothing, shelter, and medicine from their natural environment. They learned about the importance of the Chattahoochee River and how it influenced the lives of the Creek and Cherokee. Additionally, they were challenged to think about how the Creek and Cherokee viewed nature and discussed ways they could live in harmony with nature and the environment in their lives.
CNC is proud to provide an out-of-classroom experience and to share nature with so many students. And we are incredibly grateful for partnerships, like Cultural Kaleidoscope, that help extend our reach throughout the Atlanta metro area. Up next, the buses will continue to boisterously roll in all winter long, as we welcome approximately 4,000 first grade students as part of our partnership with Atlanta Public Schools and the Cultural Experience Project.
The morning routine was underway in a windowless Brookview Elementary School classroom where strands of twinkle lights provided a soft glow. Then, the teacher announced it was time to line up.
Excitement bubbled as second graders at the Fulton County school stowed away science notebooks and waited in an increasingly boisterous cafeteria for buses to take them on the year’s first field trip. Their destination: The Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, an hour-long drive north from the East Point school.
By Alicia Thompson, Senior Director of Learning and Engagement
On July 30, CNC was recognized at the Georgia Forestry Association’s annual conference with the Evergreen Award. The Award serves to recognize both the partnership between our organizations, as well as the talent and dedication of CNC staff to sharing the love of forests. CNC’s education staff has a true passion for interpreting the importance of Georgia’s forests. We are grateful to be able to pair CNC’s unique outdoor learning opportunities with all that Georgia Forestry Foundation (GFF) brings to our curriculum.
Since 2017 CNC and GFF have partnered to bring forest ecology and forest career education to thousands of students in the metro Atlanta area. In part of our program, a simple exercise allows students to reflect on what they’ve learned. Before we begin, 3rd-grade students are asked to draw or write about a Georgia forest. We get a tree, flower, maybe a cloud, perhaps a tiger, some may even use the word ‘scary’…
After our multi-part series, students are again asked to draw a forest – and their forests explode into true ecosystems! Where there was once a simple line under a tree to represent the ground now includes sketches underneath that line – the ground is filled with roots, soil, biotic and abiotic…the sun shines above their forest, they include native animals, fire, biodiversity, some even write the word ‘peaceful’…
We’ve also partnered with GFF as part of Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside program, providing foundational outdoor experiences for underserved youth during the summer and servings campers from both Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and City of Atlanta’s Camp Best Friends. The Thrive Outside Atlanta Community is led by the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance together with a diverse network of partners in West Atlanta and along the Chattahoochee River. This summer, students visited CNC over 7 dates. One of our partners at the Boys and Girls Club recently shared “Parents are so thrilled that you all provide these recreational opportunities that enhance the kids’ summers. To get on a fancy charter bus and travel, to go out and hike, get out in nature, see the river, for these kids it’s been awesome.”
CNC thanks the GFF staff and board members who have supported our partnership through the years. We are proud to receive the Evergreen Award and are fired up for the school year ahead!
By Alicia Thompson, Senior Director of Learning and Engagement
Chattahoochee Nature Center’s multi-faceted partnership with Fulton County serves to support the center in many ways, one of which is to help connect Fulton County residents with nature. This summer, CNC worked closely with a few distinct groups in the county and served over 1,000 residents in these programs during Summer 2022. CNC is so very grateful for the longstanding support from Fulton County that allows CNC to reach thousands of individuals each year. Below are a few highlights from Fulton County supported summer programs and partnerships.
Los Niños Primero
The mission of Los Niños Primero is Empowering Latino students and their families from early childhood to college through holistic academic, leadership, and community programs. Working under the summer theme of “Cultivating kindness and gratitude”, CNC provided nature programs for students aging 3-8 years old. At the start of the summer, Los Niños Primero instructors met at CNC for a day of training and learning CNC’s 127 acres. As part of the program’s summer calendar, students experienced a guided nature program at CNC at the start of the summer program, and then returned to CNC toward the end of the program with their class to again experience CNC as an ‘outdoor classroom’. Los Niños Primero instructors were encouraged to use the outdoor setting to teach and to share lessons while immersed in nature. These programs provided almost 700 experiences for students during June and July.
CNC and Los Niños Primero also teamed up in July to host a Mayor’s Summer Reading Club event at the Ben Brady Lakeside Pavilion for the 2nd year in a row for 150 parents and children. As stated on the MSRC website, The Mayor’s Summer Reading Club (MSRC) is a program for children ages birth to five and their families that takes place in various locations throughout the City of Atlanta each summer. Every year, we announce a city-wide book choice for infants and children ages 2-5 to share with their families. We work with direct service programs to distribute copies of the books at no cost to children, and we encourage schools and early education programs to introduce the story and distribute the books to children they serve.
Throughout the summer, institutions in Atlanta hold “book club reads” to model research-based methods of reading books with children and host enrichment events based upon the stories. The books come to life as children enjoy arts and crafts activities, drama exercises, and other hands-on activities designed to make the language in the stories meaningful to children. This summer’s book for 3 to 5-year-olds is another collaboration between GEEARS’ Mayor’s Summer Reading Club, the Alliance Theatre, and the Atlanta Speech School, funded by our partners at PNC. The book, Atlanta, My Home, is written by local author Breanna J. McDaniel, and again illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
Families and children enjoyed a Spanish-language animal encounter delivered by bilingual CNC Docent Frank Viera, as well as a magic show, and storybook reading with staff from the Alliance Theatre.
Los Niños Primero students enjoying storytime and an animal encounter at CNC this summer
Fulton County Libraries
CNC partnered with seven Fulton County libraries in the south district of the county to share our outreach programs with library patrons. This summer’s theme was “Oceans of Possibilities” and CNC naturalist shared live animals and interpretive environmental education. The photos say it all!
Office of the Fulton County District Attorney
The Office of the Fulton County District Attorney is the largest and busiest prosecutor’s office in Georgia, led by Fani T. Willis, the first woman District Attorney for Fulton County. The Youth Program serves 6th to 9th graders attending Fulton County public schools that have been identified as high-crime/gang activity risk. The students meet weekly and are exposed to various components of the criminal justice system. According to Natalie Zellner, Deputy District Attorney – Programs, Grants, and Intergovernmental Relations, “The idea to incorporate the Center into Camp started with DA saying that everyone must learn tools to cope with fear and anxiety and nature is the best tool to do that.” CNC Hosted almost 100 students over the course of the summer.
“We are so thankful for your partnership. Each week, many of the youth told Madame DA that the Chattahoochee Nature Center was their favorite part of the week!
Additionally, the engagement from the CNC Board and staff was phenomenal. We based our program on a youth program started in Los Angeles that has a pillar adult sharing their career path, hurdles overcome and long-term reward to contrast with the short term, fast money gains of crime. If we change the course of two youth a week, it’s worth it!
Going forward, Fulton County Schools has asked the DA’s office to continue our partnership and create an in-school program for at risk youth in target middle and high schools in South Fulton. Superintendent Looney is really focused on redirecting these youth and helping them. Right now, many schools are beyond capacity and these youth really require more attention. The Center’s existing programs are a great fit for these youth.”
CNC looks forward to continuing to grow this partnership to help students connect with and tap into the physical and mental health benefits that nature has to offer.
Fulton County Community Services Program CAMP KINGFISHER
Fulton County selected CNC as one of several Community Services Program providers, where CNC partnered with STARHouse and Los Niños Primero to offer 100% scholarship-funded camp experiences for children who would not have traditionally been able to participate in Camp Kingfisher. Campers were fully immersed in the Camp K day, including canoeing, archery, science and art, hiking, and so much more.
Part traditional outdoor camp and part hands-on nature education, Camp Kingfisher offers something for everyone. Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment where campers connect to nature and each other. Outdoor adventuring and learning abound on CNC’s 127 incredible acres.
Camp Kingfisher provides a unique opportunity to connect to the outdoors, make strides in personal growth, and increase self-confidence. Through a combination of nature-based activities, outdoor play, a supportive community, and educators who teach to every learning style our campers are guided along the “growing-up” process. Our goal is to increase the children’s awareness of the world around them, nurture an interest in science and nature study, foster a sense of belonging and help every child understand and reach their full potential.
CNC is proud of the partnerships it has formed with Fulton County and looks forward to continuing to connect people with nature.
Volunteers work hard to provide service to the community and help make a difference in society’s many challenges. CNC is especially grateful to our many volunteers who help keep us going all through the year. They do it all by creating programs, assisting visitors, wearing costumes, mailing envelopes, tending to campers, leading hikes, and growing healthy food. During National Volunteer Week, April 17-23, we want to celebrate and honor the volunteers that give their time and talents to CNC!
In this volunteer spotlight, we would like to focus on our volunteers in the education department. Christie Hill, Naturalist Manager at CNC gave rave reviews for her volunteers, Lauren and Anna.
Read on to find out Christie’s thoughts on her talented volunteers.
Lauren and Anna have been amazing additions to our Education Team this school year! I have continued to be impressed by their innovation and commitment to sustainability. These young environmentalists are not just thinking or talking about these weighty concepts, but their chosen lifestyles make them role models for their peers.
Lauren is thoughtful, determined, and takes on any project with quiet fervor. She has researched many areas of consumerism and choices we could be making in our daily lives. She is up to date on the current best practices in recycling and has given us a game plan for improving our methods.
Anna has her own sandwich-making business to support needy communities. She is passionate about marine ecology, enjoys researching the wildlife here, and builds on her knowledge of sustainability for the earth and oceans.
It has been a pleasure to have their ideas and hopeful spirits here, in sync with the values of the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Anna and Lauren have found their experiences as volunteers to be valuable and rewarding.
Find out how Lauren described her experience as a volunteer.
Spending every summer for the past decade at Camp Barney Medintz, an outdoor sleepaway camp in Cleveland, GA, provided me with many positive memories of nature. Free of phones and air conditioning, each summer I embarked on many adventures through the mountains – from creek hikes to a three-day hiking trip through the first stretch of the Appalachian trail to spending a full twenty-four hours alone on a campsite. These solidified my love of the outdoors. When I was thirteen, I had a counselor who came to every meal equipped with a metal bowl and cutlery, and she spent that entire summer spreading her passion for sustainability. Slowly but surely, the respect I had for her ignited my passion for the environment. I started to love nature not only for my memories of it but also for its tranquility and the safety it provided from the often-loud world; I started to question the overconsumption I had committed and the glutenous culture I had perpetuated; most importantly, I started a journey to save the environment, one small step at a time. Now, I am a senior in high school aspiring to further this mission through a career in Environmental Policy.
The logical first step for me was interning at CNC, so I could witness an organization that gets people to care about the environment. Interning at CNC has been my first time in a formal workplace, and I could not imagine a better first experience. I have experienced the workplace culture firsthand, introducing me to the inclusive, nature-focused environment the staff and volunteers create. I have learned about and interacted with the animals, plants, and ecosystems at CNC, while also exploring broader environmental concerns, like plastics, recycling, and pollution. Beyond this, I now understand the myriad of paths that brought the staff members and volunteers to CNC, their similar passions for the environment and educating others about it, and a variety of professional and life skills. This internship, which started as a method for cultivating my sustainability passion in a real-world setting, has equipped me with new knowledge and values that I know I will carry into my future pursuits. I am so grateful for the well-informed, kind people with whom I have had the privilege of interacting, and I cannot wait to learn even more throughout the rest of my internship.
Now we will learn more about Anna and what led her to become a volunteer here.
As a senior at North Springs High School, I am involved in the National Honors Society, National Spanish Honors Society, the Talented and Gifted program, the Environmental Awareness Club, and I am the president of the Sandwich Club. The Sandwich Club is an extension of the nonprofit The Sandwich Project in which people from the metro Atlanta area make sandwiches for those in need of hearty meals. I also enjoy being on the varsity swim and tennis team! All my life, I have been so interested in the natural world, and in recent years I have become interested in the concept of conservation and sustainability. The Chattahoochee Nature has been the perfect environment for me to explore my interests while also helping out with the nonprofit and giving back to the community! I get to learn about the different animals that we rehabilitate, work on programs for the scouts to learn about sustainability, and overall just be surrounded by people who focus on our local environment! It has been the best experience and I plan to continue learning about these topics at the University Of Georgia next year while I major in Environmental Economics and Management!
Thank you Lauren and Anna for giving so much to CNC and we cannot wait to celebrate your successes in life!
Have you ever wondered where some of the incredible animal skeletons come from that can be seen in the lower level of the Discovery Center?
We’d like to introduce you to Emily Ross who creates many of these amazing skeletons. We asked Emily to give us some background information on how she got started, how she puts together or “articulates” the skeletons, and where she thinks this hobby will take her in the future. Read on to hear her fascinating answers!
How did this interest develop?
Skeletal articulation, skulls, and collecting bones are subjects I’ve always had an interest in, but never really knew how to start such niche hobbies. I live in a suburban area which often has limited my options for finding bones. The only easy option was picking up roadkill, which I didn’t have the stomach for. Luckily for me, I met Aspin Hollingsworth (they/them), who is now one of my closest friends. Aspin also shared interests in anatomy and collecting bones. When we started this hobby, they also had a car and stamina strong enough to deal with the gross bits that I couldn’t handle. To be honest, we both had no idea what we were doing in the beginning – but over time (and with the hesitant support of my mother, who temporarily allowed us to use her garage and got us supplies) we eventually had too many bones to really know what to do with. For some odd, probably morbid, reason – I always loved when the bones we had were all together, which inspired me to start actively putting them in the correct places. It was like the bones were some kind of puzzle. I loved the end result when I had a completed articulation that I could add to my collection of rocks, bones, and oddities.
My biggest find was a moose skeleton in the Utah scrub lands this summer. My mom and I packed most of it in a Walmart parking lot in shipping boxes bound for Georgia. (Again, this hobby has stretched the definition of what comprises motherly love). My first articulation was the foot of a roadkill mink we had found – ironically on our way to the Nature Center.
What are the steps you go through to articulate a skeleton?
When it comes to having a complete skeleton of an animal, the No. 1 rule is to keep everything as organized as possible. Keeping each individual disarticulated foot in separate bags is very important. If things become mixed up, it takes much longer than necessary to actually begin the process of articulation.
I always start on the spine of the animal first, making sure a strong wire runs down the entire structure. I then attach the cranium, and next, the pelvic bone. After these pieces are attached, I begin working on the ribcage – which is one of the sections that I most struggle with. For smaller animals, it’s extremely difficult to distinguish the slight differences in the ribs, and there are not many helpful references online.
Once all of this is completed, I use a wooden base and small dowel rods to create supports for the articulation to rest on. At that point, I will start doing the tedious activity of putting the toe bones together. Surprisingly, the feet are not difficult, but they take the most time and can be quite annoying if they’re not positioned properly on the base. I attach the feet to their correct legs and then I glue the back legs to the pelvic bone. Attaching the front legs, specifically the scapula onto the skeleton is one of the most difficult processes when it comes to making an accurate-looking skeletal form. Not only is it very difficult to place, since there’s not really a socket or indent for it to naturally be glued to, but if the scapula looks even slightly off, then the entire skeleton ends up looking strange. Once all of this is done, I finish off the skeleton by attaching its jaw.
How did you learn to do this? Any future school plans or career goals?
It took me quite a lot of trial and error to learn how to make articulations, and I’m still learning so much more as I continue to put together a variety of animals for both my own enjoyment and the benefit of the Nature Center. Although I had considered going into the medical field for my future career, I have instead decided to aim in a more artistic direction. I feel that articulation has allowed me to incorporate both of these careers of mine into a perfect mix of science, anatomy, and artistic passion. Because of articulation, I have been able to help my community in ways I couldn’t imagine, such as the community service of picking up roadkill, donating natural oddities to the Nature Center, and being able to educate people using my artwork. Not only that, I have learned so many new things by engaging in this hobby.
How did you become involved with the Chattahoochee Nature Center?
I remember when I was younger, I absolutely adored the Chattahoochee Nature Center. I specifically recall working so hard to save up points to exchange them for a possum skull. Through the years, I mostly drifted away, captured by other interests of childhood. But a year and a half ago, I remembered that the trading exchange had bones – so Aspin (also a huge fan of the Chattahoochee Nature Center) and I decided to investigate. I never imagined that the nature center would open up so many new possibilities. I also enjoy the CNC’s yearly butterfly exhibit, as well as the wildlife encounters featuring injured and rehabilitated animals.
Where can we see some of your work?
You can find some of my articulation work in the Nature Exchange at CNC and artwork on Instagram @Shadowfangbudder.
Connecting People to Nature through Virtual Programming
By Andrea Hearn, Digital Media Coordinator
Did you know that Chattahoochee Nature Center has virtual programs that make it possible for us to bring the nature center to you? Virtual programs with CNC provide people of all ages the opportunity to meet live animals, see firsthand views of our ponds and river, and hone in on their Naturalist skills.
At the Chattahoochee Nature Center, it is our goal to connect people with nature whether you are around the corner, in another state, or even another country. We are proud to announce that CNC has now gone international! We have expanded our virtual programming by becoming a Content Provider for the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC). The CILC offers a window into a wide variety of virtual experiences in which students can actively participate in interactive learning and collaboration. They offer virtual programs from cultural organizations from all over the world including nature centers, museums, zoos, art galleries, and aquariums. Content Providers like us offer programs that clients can pick and choose from so that they can have access to the unique educational experience that they are searching for.
Our first program since joining forces with CILC was for the Rutherford School in Edmonton, Canada. For this experience, one of our naturalists, Kitty Glickman, taught a lesson in nature journaling. The students enjoyed seeing the picturesque setting at Kingfisher Pond and were excited to see an up-close view of our turtles. They were enthusiastic and engaged as Kitty led them through her tips and tricks of nature journaling. In our evaluation, Alyssa Prouty, (the participating teacher) mentioned that her students were actively engaged, she came away with new ideas for teaching nature journaling, and that she would highly recommend this program to others.
We can’t wait to move forward as we expand the reach of our virtual programs so that we can continue to offer exciting and informative experiences to audiences that connect people to nature both near and far.
Georgia Forestry Foundation and CNC teamed up to offer a full day of outdoor programming for the campers around the 127-acre campus, including hiking, forestry education, and live animal encounters with Georgia wildlife.
The pollinators you love – and a few you might be surprised to meet
April 19, 2021
By Emma Schell, Scheduling Coordinator
Spring has sprung, and while that means warmer weather and blooming flowers, it also means the arrival of something many people dread: pollen.
While it may be a nuisance to our noses, pollen is an essential part of plant reproduction. In order for many plants to make seeds and fruit, pollen must travel between flowers. While wind and water can do some of this work, an estimated 70-87% of flowering plants rely on animals for help.
We call these animal helpers pollinators.
Perhaps the most widely recognized pollinator, butterflies help pollinate in a rather accidental way.
Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid found in flowers, and it is the primary food source for most butterflies. They use their long, straw-like mouth parts, called a proboscis, to reach down into the flowers and drink the nectar.
Butterflies do not intentionally collect pollen, but when one stops to drink nectar, small amounts of pollen stick to its body. As the butterfly continues its search for food, it carries this pollen to new flowers – helping to pollinate plants as it goes.
Georgia is home to over 500 species of bees, and although they might be a little less colorful than butterflies, they are the real MVPs of the pollinator world.
Both pollen and nectar are essential parts of a bee’s diet – nectar provides energy in the form of carbohydrates while pollen provides proteins and other nutrients. Because of this, bees actively collect both nectar and pollen for themselves and their larvae.
Bees possess special structures on their bodies that allow them to store and carry pollen. These adaptations allow bees to transport large amounts of pollen, sometimes 30% of their body weight, back to their nests. Along the way, they distribute this pollen to the plants they visit.
Like bees, wasps have very high energy needs. While most wasps are carnivorous, they cannot survive on meat alone. They supplement their diet with a variety of sugar-rich foods such as fruits and, of course, nectar from flowers. As they pass between flowers, they transfer pollen along the way.
Though they may not be as widely impactful as a bee, wasps are important specialist pollinators. Specialist pollinators are very picky in their choice of plants that they visit. They choose to visit the flowers of only one small group of plants, and often, the plants that they do visit are entirely dependent on these wasps for reproduction.
Though flies are often overlooked in discussions of pollination, this ancient group of insects was likely one of the first to pollinate early flowering plants.
Less fuzzy than most bees, they may not be the most efficient pollinators, but in some environments, flies carry the majority of the burden. Especially in cooler climates, where bee activity is reduced, flies are often the primary pollinator group.
Just like with wasps, some plants have evolved specifically to be pollinated by flies. They may emit foul odors or even resemble rotting meat in appearance. They do all of this to attract flies to their flowers.
One of these plants is the cocoa tree. The cocoa tree has small, downturned flowers that grow on its lowest branches and trunk. These flowers smell similar to some mushrooms, and they attract tiny flies that normally feed on fungi. Without these flies, the cocoa tree cannot bear fruit. Without this fruit, we humans would not have chocolate.
These nighttime flyers may go unnoticed much of the time, but make no mistake, they are vital to plants all over the world. Over 530 plant species rely on bats to assist with pollination – some of these plants include agave, bananas, and balsa trees.