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Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Encourages Folks to Deepen Their Understanding of the World Around Them

By Elisha Neubauer

As far as partnerships go, the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center is a unique one. A collaboration between the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Foundation, the University of Georgia, the Gwinnett County Board of Education, and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, the center was opened in 2006 to be a multi-use facility covering the topics of science, history, culture, heritage, and environmental aspects.

Located on a 700 acre campus, the facility offers green space, walking trails, and a 66,000 square foot building. It was a first of its kind, being certified as Gwinnett's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building (LEED). The unique design of the building even features a one acre vegetated roof system with over 40,000 plants.

"The Center provides an opportunity for more than 118,000 students (public, private, and homeschool) and community members annually to participate in interpretative, hands-on field studies and educational programming," says Jason West, Director of Programming. "A field study experience at the Center for elementary and middle school students involves hands-on experiences with both permanent and changing exhibits, inquiry based learning, STEAM (science-technology-engineering-arts-math) instruction, and laboratory study opportunities."

The program which West refers to meets or exceeds the Georgia Performance Standards and covers each of the major concepts of life, physical, earth, and social sciences, integrating them into an interpretive based environmental education context. The center also provides extended study opportunities for high school students and includes advanced placement into biology labs, water quality field studies, and forest and stream adventure programs.

"Additionally, a LEED tour of the Center combined with a guided tour of the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, exposes middle and high school engineering and technology students to the unique systems of these state of the art environmental facilities," West adds.

The goal of the facility is to provide hands-on activities and programs in order to promote environmental, cultural, and scientific literacy to students, thus enhancing their understanding of the world around them. "We believe it is easier to retain knowledge when you learn by doing," states West.

The facility offers exhibits such as Water Wise, Discover H20, Water Ways, and Blue Planet. Their Treetop Quest involves ziplines, monkey bridges, Tarzan swings, and flying foxes, all at 55 feet off the forest floor. "Treetop Quest is a self-guided activity," states their website.

"Once you are equipped, we will teach you how to operate your equipment and you will be good to swing through each course as many times as you want, for 2.5 hours." There are also several heritage sites available and a smattering of events occurring at any given time.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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