Atlanta Events Connect Environmental Education, Community Service and Job Preparation

Our work to deepen a culture of sustainability in Metro Atlanta schools is always a priority but when we are also able to serve the community while promoting sustainability efforts – well, that’s what my colleagues here at the National Wildlife Federation call “feeding two birds with one hand.”

Photo Credit: Warren Patrick Photography

On January 15th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Wildlife Federation teamed up with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) and the U.S. Forest Service to co-host the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Outdoor Activity Center in Southwest Atlanta. Many people recognize Dr. King for his many contributions to social justice, the civil rights movement, and equality, but we use this day to honor the seeds he planted (no pun intended) that sprung the environmental justice movement.

Over 200 registered volunteers (125 adults and 75 youths) participated in activities that included: removal of invasive plants, trail maintenance, gutter installation for the aquaponic system, shrub and trash removal, plantings, and mulching trails at the 26-acre urban nature preserve. Every week, families from the surrounding community take advantage of the trails, interpretive hikes, a ropes course, and the nature-themed playground at the Outdoor Activity Center. The site has been integral to Fulton County and the Atlanta Public Schools system.

Photo Credit: Warren Edwards Photography

The National Wildlife Federation’s Joel Barna, Director of Regional Philanthropy, students from the Atlanta Earth Tomorrow program and I participated in the planning and the overall delivery of this amazing day of homage, preservation, and service.

Two weeks after the MLK Day of Service, I was invited to participate in a Job Shadow Day hosted by Atlanta Public Schools (APS), in honor of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) month. A Job Shadow Day is a structured short-term career exploration experience that gives students an opportunity to observe the culture and climate of a career that aligns with the CTAE pathway they are studying in high school. I hosted a group of 8 students from Maynard Jackson High School, an award-winning Earth Tomorrow Eco-School. The day kicked off with a short presentation and discussion on the National Wildlife Federation’s education programs at our office in Midtown Atlanta. Afterwards, students hopped on a bus to visit another APS Eco-School, M.A. Jones Elementary School on the Westside of Atlanta. The high school students were treated to a tour of the M.A. Jones Elementary and given an overview of their sustainability efforts by the president of the school’s green team.

One student, in particular, who attended M.A. Jones as an elementary student was impressed to see how far her school had come in embracing school-wide sustainability initiatives like schoolyard gardening, raising chickens, and addressing hunger.

Photo Credit: Crystal Jennings

Following our visit to the elementary school, we traveled to the Outdoor Activity Center (mentioned above) to meet more professionals and visit a nature preserve located close to their school. Students met with Darryl Haddock and Evonne Blythers from the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance. The students asked a number of questions related to interactions with wildlife and careers. They took a real interest in learning more about how they can protect habitat for wildlife and wild places for future generations. The day was a success!

To learn more about our programs or volunteer in Atlanta, please send inquires to Crystal Jennings at