By: Noelani Mathews | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 16, 2019
THOMAS COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) -- Starting this week, many students at Thomas County Central High School are trading books for shovels.
The school is excited for their new outdoor classroom, a plot of longleaf pines.
"I enjoy bonding with my friends while doing it because I'm teaching them something and they're teaching me something as well," said Mittiyuna Green, a TCCHS senior.
"This is more of what I want to do, so it's just a lot easier," said Jackree Anderson, another TCCHS senior.
The plot is called the Longleaf Learning Landscape, and has a hands-on approach that's already paying off. While students have fun, it teaches the history and future of longleaf pines.
"From here to Virginia, there used to be 90 million acres of it, and now there's only three million, so we're just out here planting some more," said Anderson.
The plot comes after a year of planning, preparation and thousands of dollars worth of material.
Tall Timbers, Georgia Forestry and International Forest Company partnered together to bring the special project to their first Georgia high school. The Longleaf Learning Landscape plans to integrate a new way of learning, while helping the longleaf pine ecosystem.
"Our goal is that kids growing up here realize that this is a special thing they get to be around. They can see it and watch it grow. They can be a part of it here on their campus," said Brian Wiebler, Tall Timbers Outreach and Education coordinator.
Wiebler says students will begin seeing blooms by fall. Around April of next year, the plot will see its first prescribed fire to help shape and maintain the landscape.