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Room to Grow: Master Naturalist Program will expand your horizons

“The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Nature.”

This fall, we will once again offer our Bibb County Master Naturalist program. This class, offered for the eighth year, gives adults the opportunity to open their minds and explore the natural world around them.

As the name of the program implies, we offer the unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of our local natural resources. Because of our urban setting, we also have the opportunity to learn more about the impact of our own ecological footprint.

The Georgia Master Naturalist program was developed by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the Warnell School of Forest and Natural Resources as an adult environmental education program. It is offered as a combination of lectures and field trips to a number of Middle Georgia venues.

Tailored to Macon and surrounding communities, this program explores natural resources from both an urban and traditional perspective. A volunteer component will encourage participants to become active in our local community.

While the volunteer component is not mandatory, it encourages participants to engage in activities such as tree planting, youth program development, invasive species removal and the annual Ocmulgee Alive River Clean-up.

Once again, a myriad of topics -- including wildlife, trees and water resources -- will be offered during this eight-week program. The program will kick-off with an orientation Aug. 27. Classes will begin Sept. 10 and will continue each Thursday through October.

Since this program only lasts eight weeks, we strongly recommended that participants not miss more than one day of class. In general, the classes will last from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. However, some days will start earlier and/or end later.

It is very important that students make arrangements to get to class on time and stay through the end of the day. We realize that this class structure is not suitable for everyone’s busy lives.

Our speakers, all local experts in their fields, come from a variety of professions. We are fortunate to have professors from local colleges and universities, professional foresters, wildlife biologists, as well as presenters from the private sector.

Course topics include basic ecology, invasive species, forestry, wildlife, water treatment, solid waste and plant identification.

While we are still nailing down some of the final details, field trip locations include the Ocmulgee National Monument, Kamin, Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center, Amerson Water Treatment Plant and the Houston County Landfill.

To make this class as interactive and as engaging as possible, the size of our group will be limited. The fee is $255 and includes class materials. To view photos from previous programs, visit www.bibbcountymasternaturalist.shutterfly.com.

For more information, call me at the Bibb County Extension Office at 478-751-6338 or email karolk@uga.edu.