FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Jerry Kelley put down the chalk and picked up a paddle.
Kelley, who teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Settles Bridge Elementary School in Forsyth County took part in Paddle Georgia from June 21-27.
It was the 10th annual Paddle Georgia, which is an annual educational trip that brings more than 350 paddlers together every year.
This year Kelley was among a group of 12 teachers who received a Paddle Georgia teacher scholarship to participate.
The grant was funded in part by the National Parks System and the Captain Planet Foundation. Kelley said he heard about Paddle Georgia from members of the Atlanta Outdoor Club who had gone on the trip in previous years and were planning to participate in the event this year. The application for the teacher scholarship was sent out in an email to teachers in Forsyth County.
Along with sending his application, Kelley sent an explanation for how his experiences with Paddle Georgia would improve teaching for his students.
“When I wrote the cover letter, I was focused on using my newfound experience and knowledge to not only help my students better understand the role of waterways in all areas, but also to have an opportunity to share with community members as well, through local organizations such as Keep Forsyth County Beautiful with Kevin Smith and members of the Atlanta Outdoor Club,” Kelley said.
Kelley wanted to participate in Paddle Georgia for years, but said that time or money were always an obstacle. This year, the scholarship made it all possible.
Participants in Paddle Georgia cover 110 miles on the Chattahoochee River over the span of a week.
Each day, the group covers an average of 16 miles, and there are tours of historic and industrial areas along the way. At night, participants camp and learn about the waterways through educational programs and games.
“We were also fortunate to be able to tour the Johns Creek Waste Facility, receive training in the Adopt-a-Stream program, work with a fishery biologist in collecting specimens to suggest health of the waterways and were trained in the Project Wet curriculum, which will be very valuable in teaching all aspects of watersheds in all areas of the curriculum,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he hopes to participate in Paddle Georgia again in the future and use his experiences to continue teaching students about natural waterways.