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Expand Your Kids’ Knowledge with Great Field Trips

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Whether your family is full of history buffs, granolas, thrill-seekers or scientists, there is tons to do around Gwinnett County this fall to spark your kids’ imagination and expand their minds.

Southeastern Railway Museum
Location: 3595 Buford Hwy., Duluth 30096
Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-6 p.m.
Website: train-museum.org

What makes it great: The Southeastern Railey Museum proudly stands as Georgia’s official museum of transportation history. It boasts the largest collection of locomotives in Georgia, including historically significant cars, buses and trains, as well as railroad artifacts.
Kids will enjoy the old, real, larger-than-life vehicles and train rides.

McDaniel Farm Park
Location: 3251 McDaniel Rd., Duluth 30096
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Website: exploregwinnett.org/directory/listing/mcdaniel-farm-park

What makes it great: Georgia’s rural farming history goes back 200 years at this location. It was owned and maintained by the McDaniel family for 140 years — and much of the property has been preserved as it existed in the 1930s.

When your family visits this farm, they’ll roam the fields of Gwinnett’s past, walk the halls that the McDaniels lived within and hear the chirping birds and gurgling water that generations of a farming family coexisted with for so many years.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Location: 767 Clifton Rd., Atlanta 30307
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Website: fernbankmuseum.org

What makes it great: Well, what’s not great about Fernbank? As a nonprofit natural history museum, it shows indoor, outdoor and special exhibits related to dinosaurs, human culture and STEM subjects. Its giant screen theater plays award-winning science documentaries every day.

WildWoods and Fernbank Forest are 75 acres and open year-round, fascinating people of all ages with its natural diversity. And this is all without mentioning Fernbank’s themed events. If you haven’t been yet, you’re sorely missing out!

Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center
Location: 2020 Clean Water Dr., Buford 30519
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Website: exploregwinnett.org/directory/listing/environmental-heritage-center

What makes it great: With over 233 acres of property, there’s plenty to do at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Your kids can experience educational fun with the Water Ways diorama and Discover H2O.

For some adventure, try the Treetop Quest ropes course or wander on five miles of walking trails. Finish your trip with a tour of the charming 1850s Chesser-Williams Historic House.

Chattahoochee Nature Center
Location: 9135 Willeo Rd., Roswell 30075
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, 12-4 p.m.
Website: chattnaturecenter.org

What makes it great: “Get your nature on” at this 127-acre nature destination on the Chattahoochee River. With dozens of activities available to experience, everyone’s in for a natural, fun time.

Hike or canoe with your child down the river or take a walk and admire the beautiful scenery. Learn about backyard habitats and birds of prey together or zipline through the tree canopy. There are always special and seasonal events happening, so no matter when you visit, your family is sure to have a blast.

Tellus Science Museum
Location: 100 Tellus Dr., Cartersville 30120
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Website: tellusmuseum.org

What makes it great: The Tellus Science Museum succeeds in making science exciting and engaging. In addition to the permanent fossil collection, the museum contains three special exhibits that change biannually: one for archaeology, the second for locomotives and the third for fun facts and brain games.

Right now, Gear Up: The Science of Bikes is displayed in the Discovery Garden, so you and your family can learn about the technology, history and cultural impact of bicycles. You can also learn about our solar system at the Bentley Planetarium and view the night sky in the state-of-the-art Tellus Observatory.

Illuminarium
Location: 550 Somerset Terrace NE, Atlanta 30306
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.;
Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. / 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (Illuminarium After Dark)
Website: illuminarium.com/atlanta/

Illuminarium

What makes it great: Illuminarium is an incredibly unique Atlanta attraction. Although entirely indoors, 4K laser projections, audio beams, in-floor haptics and scent effects combine to totally immerse visitors in realistic cultural experiences.

Depending on the show you choose to attend, you may fall down into Wonderland, adventure through an African safari or be transported beyond our world and into the amazing galaxy swirling all around us in the SPACE experience. The sensory features of these experiences are intense and enriching without being frightening, so it will be thrilling for all ages.

Bigger kids (ages 21+) can consider trying the After Dark or O’Keefe immersive settings for date night or an outing with friends.

Zoo Atlanta
Location: 800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta 30315
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Website: zooatlanta.org

What makes it great: For classic family fun, check out the zoo. Zoo Atlanta was opened in 1889, making it Atlanta’s first and oldest zoo, and it still stands up as an outstanding experience. Two hundred animal species from all corners of the world call this zoo home, bringing to life your childrens’ storybooks and dreams.

But Zoo Atlanta doesn’t stop at showing visitors these gorgeous creatures; the zoo works to protect them through various conservation efforts, including its notable commitment to giant panda conservation, and invites visitors to take action themselves. Still, there’s so much more to do at the zoo, like feed giraffes, engage with educational presentations and participate in scavenger hunts.

Coming up, Zoo Atlanta will host two Nightcrawler events, in August and October, where families with children ages six and up can spend the night at the zoo, play team challenges and interactive games, take tours and learn even more about wildlife. You don’t want to miss it!

Ivy Clarke is a nationally award-winning writer, editor, artist and aspiring literary activist currently studying English literature, creative writing and art at Mercer University. In addition to her work with Peachtree Corners Press, she writes and edits for The Mercer Cluster, The Dulcimer, Macon Magazine and Mercer University Press. She has also published poetry in Atlanta Review, Glass Mountain and The Allegheny Review.

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Education

Seven Norcross High School Students Named as National Merit Semifinalists

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Norcross High School

Nina Ballerstedt, Dylan Christensen, Jordan Katz, Logan Lewis, Holden Thomas, Jonah Wu and Sean Zhong — all students at Norcross High School — have been named as Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The Semifinalists were determined by the students’ scores on the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). They are among 16,000 students from across the nation competing for National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2023 will be announced beginning in April and concluding in July.

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Education

Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers

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The Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) has named four Wesleyan School faculty members GISA Master Teachers, the school announced on September 7. Laura Jensen (lower school lead teacher), Dr. Ruthie Colegrove (middle school fine arts), Pam Sanchez (middle school foreign language), and Ted Russell (high school social sciences) were all selected after completing a detailed application process through GISA this past spring.

From Left to Right: Laura Jensen, Dr. Ruthie Colgrove, Pam Sanchez, Ted Russell

To be accepted into GISA’s Master Teacher program, candidates must submit a detailed application.

Applicants must also submit a portfolio of three tangible examples of outstanding work related to the classroom and to sharing and collaborating with other educators. The final part of the application is an unedited video of the candidate’s classroom teaching utilizing best practices and five letters of recommendation from colleagues, administrators, parents, and students.

“We are delighted that GISA has acknowledged the hard work of these committed educators throughthe Master Teacher program,” said Chris Cleveland, Wesleyan Head of School. “Laura, Ruthie, Pam, andTed are outstanding classroom teachers and have been impacting the lives of Wesleyan students formany years. They are each deserving of this honor.”

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Wesleyan teacher in group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro

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Mount Kilimanjaro
CLIMBING FOOD: Here’s what the “dining hall” looks like when you are on a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Lawrenceville’s Laura Jensen, near right, recently made the climb to the summit with this group, a long-held goal of hers. Next to Laura is Sarah Grady of Atlanta. Read more about the hike in Today’s Focus below.

[Gwinnett Forum Editor’s note: the following account of a lifetime mountain climb is from the Pre-First teacher at Wesleyan School. She is also the wife of Ryan Jensen, pastor of the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, and the mother to two, Camille, 10, and Knox, 8. The Wesleyan summer Sabbatical Grant encourages faculty to pursue a lifetime of learning. Faculty members may apply for grants for scholarly work. She was awarded the grant in 2019, but because of the pandemic not able to complete it until 2022. Total cost of the climb was $6,495, but for travel, shots, insurance, etc., the total was $10,000.]–eeb

This June I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with Beyond Adventures, bringing to fruition a 20-year dream!

Our group of eight climbers required four guides and 20 porters. Our lead guides have been climbing Kibo, the highest of Kili’s three peaks, for over 20 years with 250+ trips to the summit. Their knowledge and experience put us at ease. Our porters faithfully cooked, set up tents, pumped water and carried equipment on their backs, shoulders, and heads.

The hike took us through Kilimanjaro’s four climate zones – rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and glacier. We tackled each day with conversations, as our group bonded instantly. We learned about the mountain and its beauty from our guides.

The team rejoices at the summit.
Walking the moors.
There’s the destination: Mount Kilimanjaro. Photos provided.

Walking the moors.

Each day began with a delicious breakfast, prep for the climb, and praying for the day ahead. We set off silently to reflect on our experience. Our second day, I was so surprised to see the mess tent set up at lunchtime with tables, chairs, and a hot meal prepared. Afterwards we headed to higher altitude for acclimatization before descending into the valley to sleep.

Meanwhile, our porters broke everything down, raced past us yet again to the next camp, and set everything up for the evening. Lead guide Gabriel would say at our rest stop, “Okay guys, let’s go home!” We arrived to cheerful porters, a bustling campsite, and time to rest. Our days ended around the table, reflecting on the day, and receiving details for tomorrow. Early bedtime to the sounds of our porters finishing the day laughing and talking in Swahili helped us drift off to sleep.

We hiked for five days through stunning and rugged terrain. We challenged our bodies to acclimate to altitudes and slept on inclines in a tent. We celebrated our successful scaling of an 800 foot vertical rock wall. Each day I grew more aware of the impending final push to the top.

We rested at 16,000 feet before waking at 12:30 a.m. for a 1:30 a.m. departure. We left under a full moon with headlamps lighting the way. Our guides and summit porters carefully watched our every step. After five hours of hiking, we began to glimpse a breathtaking sunrise over the horizon. We continued all the way to 19,354 feet at Uhuru Peak. After congratulations and photos, we quickly began descending to 13,000 ft. for a final night of camping.

Our last morning brought a celebration of gratitude – singing, dancing, giving out tips, and a prayer over the guides, porters, and their families in both English and Swahili. A long day of steep descent was filled with stories, laughter, and sore muscles.

The team rejoices at the summit.

We hiked quickly through the moorland and back into the rainforest. It had rained recently and left the trail very slick. After walking “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly in Swahili) for 5½ days, this rapid pace for 7,000 feet down the mountain felt like a sprint! Despite the rapid pace, we all tried to look around to appreciate the lush beauty of our surroundings, listen for the sound of monkeys and hornbills, and soak up these final moments together on the trail. Arriving at elevation 6,000 feet officially ended our trip. After final hugs, high-fives, and thank you’s for our guides and porters, we boarded a bus to head back to Arusha.

Reaching the summit I will always remember. Yet the greater gift was spending time with the amazing group that included not just those of us climbing, but the crowd of witnesses who loved and served every step of the way.

Written By Laura Jensen

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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