The Experiential Learning Sub-Committee of the Lake Herrick Watershed Restoration Committee administered a survey to faculty across the University of Georgia (UGA). Twenty-seven faculty members responded, many of whom regularly use Lake Herrick and Oconee Forest Park for their classes. Within the survey, the sub-committee requested ideas for enhancing utility of the site for experiential learning.
Together with the Management Sub-Committee, the Experiential Learning Sub-Committee has acknowledged the potential to re-open the beach pavilion in a limited capacity for academic and outreach purposes. Of the 27 faculty who responded to the survey, two-thirds (18) use either Lake Herrick, Oconee Forest Park, or both for their classes, some of them on a regular basis. Some faculty who responded to the survey indicated a need for storage of materials as well as a gathering place for classes; the beach pavilion may be able to fill these needs if renovated and kept up.
This report summarizes the results of the faculty surveys. It should be noted that this report also provides some recommendations to senior administrators in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Facilities Management Division, and the Department of Recreational Sports, and is based on the current practices and desires of UGA faculty who are invested in the site.
10 different departments, schools, and offices responded to the survey:
o College of Agriculture and Environmental Science
o Office of the Vice President for Research
o Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
o Odum School of Ecology
o Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
o Terry College of Business
o Office of Service-Learning
o College of Environment and Design
o College of Engineering
o College of Veterinary Medicine
58 different classes (including a study abroad orientation) were reported as users of Lake Herrick and/or Oconee Forest Park.
8 respondents (30%) reported they use both the lake and the park
3 respondents (11%) reported they use Oconee Forest Park
7 respondents (26%) reported they use Lake Herrick
9 respondents (33%) reported they do not use either location for their classes
When asked how they use the site for their classes,
o 8 reported activities such as collecting and taking samples (biotic or abiotic)
o 5 reported activities such as measuring stream conditions and conducting water quality testing
o 4 reported activities such as plant or tree identification and ecological inventory
o 1 reported using the challenge course
o 1 reported using the site for environmental education
o 1 reported using the site for a senior project
When asked when they plan to next use Lake Herrick/Oconee Forest Park, faculty responded:
o Summer 2016 (3 responses)
o Fall 2016 (8 responses)
o Spring 2017 (4 responses)
o Ongoing (2 responses)
o No plan (2 responses)
Those who do not currently use Lake Herrick or Oconee Forest Park for experiential learning were asked why they do not use the site.
o 3 respondents didn’t feel it applied to their course
o 3 respondents indicated other locations on campus are more appropriate
o 2 respondents indicated access and/or time were constraints
o 2 respondents indicated they needed to visit the site to determine its usefulness to their classes
o 1 respondent said he/she had not been exposed to the site before the survey
o 1 respondent indicated there were problems with the site that discouraged him/her from using it.
When faculty were asked to provide examples of resources, facilities, or other amenities that would increase the utility and value of the site for experiential learning, faculty responded with the following suggestions:
o Access to a monitoring database (5 responses)
o Recreational equipment (e.g., canoes) to get to locations on/in the lake (4 responses)
o Outdoor classroom (3 responses)
o Parking/Transportation options (3 responses)
o Place to store materials (3 responses)
o Botanical markers (2 responses)
o Electricity (2 responses)
o Management of the forest for diversity and native species (2 responses)
o Materials provided, e.g., dry erase board (1 response)
o Trail to specific research sites (1 response)
The survey also asked for ideas and desires without constraint of time or money. Some notable responses are below.
o “I think it would be great to design part of it as an outside experiential learning trail so that students of all ages could learn while being outside. Sort of like an outdoor museum.” – Terry College faculty
o “Create some opportunities for public art (e.g., Dodd school sculpture exhibition or murals), mini amphitheater for music/plays” – Institute for Leadership Advancement faculty
o “Signage for ecosystem study, tree study, and herbaceous plant study could be worked into one trail for effective active and passive teaching.” – CED faculty
o “Although not in my college, we could develop an education center that complemented Rock Eagle [4-H Center]. It would be a place to educate politicians and the public.” – College of Engineering faculty
o “Great place to study the interactions between recreational uses, terrestrial ecology, and stream/lake ecology. This could integrate learning opportunities for students in humanities, arts, social science, natural sciences, engineering, and education.” – Ecology faculty
o “Needs better connectivity (light rail? Or direct, car-free multi-use path?) with rest of campus; should conserve some (half?) as people-free green space and create connectivity with other public greenspaces in Athens for wildlife corridors.” – Terry faculty
Other notable comments:
o “I am glad you are looking at reclaiming Lake Herrick. I used to swim there, and it is alarming that it is now too polluted to do so safely. More environmental awareness will help us all, so adding a nature walk with watershed information would be great.” – CED faculty
Some recommendations provided in the survey responses are low-cost options that can be pursued in the short-term. Thus, the Experiential Learning Sub-Committee recommends investigating and recruiting funding sources for renovation of the beach pavilion to provide storage for lab materials, resources such as dry erase boards, and space for students and instructors to gather. This may include a need to provide electricity and running water within the pavilion.
In the long-term, funding could be sought to convert the beach pavilion into an environmental interpretive center providing opportunities for the UGA and Athens community to gather and learn about the local ecosystems, similar to the Sandy Creek Nature Center, a valued Athens-Clarke County amenity. Furthermore, an investment in an interpretive trail offering passive and active learning opportunities for park visitors would provide many of the opportunities faculty are looking for. Options for parking and other forms of transportation to the site should also be strongly considered, in addition to providing access to the center of the lake, through boats or an extension of the dock. Finally, in conjunction with the faculty network created through Watershed UGA, opportunities to involve the humanities, social sciences, and arts should be actively sought and invited to the site. Space for non-science disciplines to gather and meet for class could be included in plans to renovate the Lake Herrick beach.
Planning for adaptive reuse of the beach pavilion for experiential learning will continue by staff in the Odum School of Ecology, Warnell School, Office of Sustainability, Office of University Architects and others as appropriate. Appropriate funding opportunities will be identified and grant proposals developed. Potential requests may include funding for physical improvements (such as structural improvements as needed, plumbing and electrical updates, pressure washing and painting, storage space for laboratory materials, and furnishings for small-to-medium sized classes) as well as possible program funding.
Communication between Warnell, Rec Sports, Facilities Management Division, and others will occur as needed for this project. Additional staffing may need to be addressed for facility upkeep. Furthermore, the website for Oconee Forest Park will require updates of information regarding contacts, availability, rules and regulations, and transportation, in addition to marketing and communication of new opportunities to UGA faculty, staff, and students.