High school students learning about environmental stewardship

High school students learning about environmental stewardship

Mississippi Power, along with the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, is using hands-on experience to teach local high school students the importance of environmental stewardship.

The program, called the Next Generation Conservationists Program, is made possible through a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The Land Trust is teaming with Patrick Chubb, Senior Environmental specialist, to introduce impressionable students from Harrison Central High School to nature and teach them conservation-related activities.

Mississippi Power recently sponsored three projects that were honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Southern Company as part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program.

“This Next Generation Conservationists Program is a partnership between NFWF, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Forest Service,” said Chubb, who’s helping teach two courses. “For the most part, our classroom is the outdoors, and we really enjoy working with these students because they are interested in the subject matter, well-mannered and appreciative of what we are teaching them. We hope these classes will inspire them to take up the mantle of environmental stewardship.”

Classes began in early March with 20 students. Jim Kelly, a consultant to the Land Trust, developed the course curriculum and teaches the classes along with Chubb and Harrison Central instructor Candice Torrey.

“My students were selected to participate in this 80-hour program by their teachers and counselors, as well as their own desire to want to learn more about environmental studies,” Torrey said. “The kids are very interested in learning more about land conservation, GPS/GIS Mapping and tree management. It’s important for them to see how they can apply the knowledge they’re learning now into a potential career.”

Classroom and field exercises all related to environmental education are on the agenda, with topics including tree planting, prescribed fires, plant identification and restoration projects.

“Patrick and I both work in natural resources management, but we bring different experiences to share with the students,” Kelly said. “The Land Trust property where we’ve been working is adjacent to your 500kV powerline. Patrick was able to incorporate teaching the students GPS mapping of known gopher tortoise burrows into the field exercises, as well as other environmental aspects, such as invasive species and native tree plantings.”

The gopher tortoise burrows are near the same areas where the endangered dusty gopher frog has a new home thanks to other company-sponsored grants.

Judy Steckler, director of the Land Trust, said Harrison Central was the ideal school to receive funding from the grant for several reasons, including population and location.

“Harrison Central was chosen as the partner for this grant because of its large student population,” Steckler said. “This school district provides a broad range of services for residents within a 450 square-mile area. This area includes nine unique rural and agricultural communities. Since the purpose of this grant is to expose students to land stewardship and conservation, this mix of backgrounds and the school being near the training area make it ideal for the project.”

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 187,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeastern Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at www.mississippipower.com and www.mississippipowernews.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on TwitterLinkedInGoogle+ and YouTube.