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Decatur’s Biggest Outdoor Classroom Gets a Boost

Thanks to the generous donation of $30,000 from Indorama Ventures, Wetland’s Edge Environmental Center (WEEC) is able to continue a free, nationally recognized outdoor classroom experience for 8,600 students of Decatur City Schools.

WEEC Director Molly Ferrell describes WEEC as the “hidden gem of DCS”—an outdoor classroom which features a wetland swamp, marsh, pond, grasslands, hardwoods, pines, and a climax community oak grove, which enhance the study of biodiversity. In addition to two miles of hiking trails on the property, WEEC houses over 50 living displays inside the center, including marine and freshwater touch tanks. The largest of these displays is a 1,650 gallon floor tank containing a marine tide pool. 

As a property owned and maintained by Indorama and shared with DCS, WEEC’s educational partnership with DCS was designated as Certified Gold (the highest certification) signifying leadership among the over 700 Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) Conservation Certification programs. In November, WEEC was also nominated for the 2017 WHC Formal Learning Project Award.  

To keep a place like WEEC available for free, it takes a lot of teamwork with our Decatur community. Ferrell says, “The living component of WEEC is its most demanding aspect requiring a tremendous amount of time and commitment.” Because WEEC is available for students system-wide without charging admission, donations from companies like Indorama are crucial for maintenance and upkeep.

Margaret O’Gorman, President of WHC, says, “Companies achieving WHC Conservation Certification, like Indorama, are environmental leaders, voluntarily managing their lands to support sustainable ecosystems and the communities that surround them.”

As an environmental leader, Indorama’s generous donation is not only giving WEEC visitors a memorable field trip within nature, but it is also connecting DCS students to their environment—an essential step often missing from the traditional classroom. “The use of live material generates eagerness and wild enthusiasm for learning that makes environmental issues more relevant and meaningful,” Ferrell says.

And this wild enthusiasm for learning will have far-reaching effects in our community. “At a time of heightened awareness of these issues on a global scale, WEEC contributes to the cutting edge and innovative programs Decatur City Schools is known for,” Ferrell says. “We’re keeping pace with an ever-changing world.”