News Release

‘Beyond the Classroom:’ Dalton State Partners with Brookwood Elementary

September 24, 2014

MacKenzie Mathis
MacKenzie Mathis, a biology major at Dalton State, lets Nash Suggs, a fourth-grader from Brookwood Elementary, sniff a turtle known for smelling badly during a lesson at Lakeshore Park.

MacKenzie Mathis isn’t sure if elementary students today understand what they need to do to preserve the environment or why it’s important.

So the Dalton State biology major volunteered to help show them.

Mathis was one of 15 students and four faculty members from Dalton State who partnered with Brookwood Elementary School recently to teach fourth-graders about plants, animals, and conservation at Lakeshore Park. Dalton Utilities and the Conasauga River Alliance were also a part of the day.

“I hope they learn how and why they should work to keep the area as clean as possible,” said Mathis. “I want them to learn to be safe and learn how to protect the animals here.”

Dalton State has worked for several summers now on a turtle project at the park, catching them, collecting data, and releasing them back into the habitat. It’s part of a long term project to restore the lake and wetlands there to its natural state and to create an outdoor classroom there.

Mathis was involved in the project over the summer and wanted to share her knowledge with the students at Brookwood. She showed them some turtles captured there, explained to them the algae on their shells is bad for the local environment, and showed them how they collect data.

Dr. John Lugthart
Dr. John Lugthart, a professor of biology at Dalton State, helps fourth-graders from Brookwood Elementary identify invertebrates at Lakeshore Park.

On the other side of the lake, Biology Professor Dr. John Lugthart was helping students capture invertebrates in the lake and identify them.

“This project fits our long term goal of an outdoor classroom,” Lugthart said. “It seemed like a great occasion and a great opportunity for our biology students, as well as Brookwood. This is a good way for students to learn about their community. It’s a great chance to have our students share their interest and show how this area can be used as an outdoor classroom.”

Tiffany Thompson, a fourth-grade teacher at Brookwood who helped organize the day of learning, was thankful to have help in teaching the students about an ecosystem in their community.

“As part of our standards, we talk about ecosystems and living organisms,” Thompson said. “We talk about food webs and what happens if food is eliminated. I felt having everyone here at Lakeshore learning about this habitat was a natural tie-in. This is their opportunity to see what we’ve been talking about in the real world. We’re taking it beyond the classroom, and showing our students the relevance of what they’re learning.”

Dr. David DesRochers
Dr. David DesRochers, an assistant professor of biology at Dalton State, leads fourth-graders from Brookwood Elementary on a walk to identify birds at Lakeshore Park.

Mary Ann McBrayer, a biology major at Dalton State, believes it’s important to show the younger generation how to care for the environment. She helped Dr. Hussein Mohamed, associate professor of biology, speak to the children about how to keep the lake and wetlands clean.

Many didn’t realize algae isn’t supposed to be in the water.

“Education about the environment is super important for children,” said McBrayer, who has a 7-year-old son. “I want them to know how critical it is to pay attention to this stuff. We’re such a consumer driven society, who just wants. So many don’t want to give back.”

Other activities included identifying plants and hearing about birds in the area.

For fourth-grader Nash Suggs, learning about the birds were his favorite part.

“We’re learning about ecosystems,” he said. “The birds are my favorite. I like birds and I like their singing and how some look. We saw some geese and ducks, but we heard a lot more.”

Dalton State, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA 30720
706.272.4436 • 1.800.829.4436 •