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Enjoy benefits of nature at DNR education centers
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SOCIAL CIRCLE — Why do people love the outdoors? Many mention memorable outdoor experiences as a child. For others, nature’s sights, sounds and smells make them feel peaceful, refreshed, energized and more spiritually connected. Research shows that environmental education even improves student achievement. 
Considering the benefits, why don’t we get outside more? Barriers include busy schedules and a plethora of electronic devices begging for our attention. Some people never had an outdoors mentor, so they fear what lurks outside. Or maybe they’re not sure how to access natural areas near them.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers many opportunities to experience the benefits of the outdoors. In addition to wildlife management, public fishing and natural areas, as well as state parks, DNR and partner agencies operate seven regional education centers across the state.
The educational mission of DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division is to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of Georgia’s wildlife resources, fostering wise stewardship of these resources and promoting safe and ethical natural resource-based recreation. Primarily designed for children, regional education center activities are correlated to the Georgia Performance Standards.
Field-trip reservations are being accepted for the 2011-12 school year. Parents, teachers and school administrators are encouraged to take advantage of these places to learn outside the classroom.
Some DNR education centers also offer teacher workshops and outreach programs, where staff members bring live animals and nature props to schools and libraries. The public also can enjoy the trails, fishing ponds, archery and shooting ranges and interpretive displays at many of these centers. State licenses apply. 
For more information, go to

Regional education centers in Georgia

• Sapelo Island: Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve on Sapelo Island (near Darien)

• Near Valdosta: Grand Bay Wetland Education Center

• Dearing: McDuffie Environmental Education Center in Dearing (near Augusta)

• Perry: Go Fish Education Center

• Mansfield: Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield (east of Atlanta)

• Armuchee: Arrowhead Environmental Education Center (near Rome)

• Near Helen: Smithgall Woods Regional Education Center

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