Page 20 - Georgia Forestry - Issue 4 - Fall 2019
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 Tom Howick in front of the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s new high-ropes course. CNC welcomes more than 130,000 children and adults every year to its 127-acre campus in Roswell.
the forest canopy. “We try to teach people that trees are important in terms of eco- systems around here not just for animals and other species, but for us, too. There are lots of different things that we benefit from, having trees around here. It’s just a great place for people to come out, relax and learn about what’s here in the Pied- mont region.”
Howick’s favorite moments at CNC are seeing young kids getting their first powerful moment in nature, building that awareness and knowledge base early. “I think when kids come here, their ‘a-ha’ moment could be just touching a tree or picking up a leaf or seeing a leaf drift down.”
“I have kids come up and hug me and say, ‘This is the best day of my life,’” he continued. “They hold my hand because sometimes they’re a little scared about getting in the forest. But when we walk on these trails and stop and close our eyes for a minute to listen to the sounds in the trees, it’s magic.”
When Howick said that, you could see he’s experienced that magic many times throughout his time in the forest. Sitting on a wooden bench in a quiet area just off the trail, he looked up and said, “I think we just give them time to slow down and to be part of this, because they’re really in nature’s enlightened classroom.”
Every day, he shares his love for the forest and invites everyone he interacts with to learn from the nature around them, planting the seeds for people to connect to and be stewards of the land.
  Howick’s been involved with CNC since 1979, when he started bringing his high school students to study the rela- tionship between watersheds, forests and rivers. “Our mission statement is to connect people to nature — simple and to the point.” As senior director of edu- cation and lead naturalist, his job is to create programming that allows people of all ages in metro Atlanta to engage with nature in ways they can’t in their backyards. “It gives them an opportunity to have an experiential education experi- ence and an experience that they couldn’t have in a classroom or on TV. There’s no substitute for getting people in the forest, no substitute,” he said.
Before we can hope to show people who
don’t see forests every day that working forests impact their lives constantly, there needs to be a fundamental appre- ciation and understanding of the natural world. “It’s kind of like Johnny Apple- seed,” he said, “you have to plant the seed for everybody to grow. And if you don’t give people experiences at any age, they’re never going to be able to enjoy and appreciate it. You can’t become a steward of the land without having some awareness and knowledge first.”
CNC’s education programs target all ages from pre-K to adults around the metro area, both in schools and on-site. “We use this place kind of like a natural laboratory,” Howick said in front of a new high ropes course that snakes through

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