Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
The primary agricultural enterprise in Liberty County is timber, but the county is also home to school and community gardens, Christmas tree farms, fruit and vegetable production, hay pastures, beef cattle, and small ruminants. The Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) agent has helped growers increase their production through on-site consultations and by sharing valuable information regarding plant varieties, innovative propagation methods such as grafting, and integrated pest and disease management strategies. Hay and beef cattle producers also received assistance testing forage quality and making nutrient-management decisions. Water quality, coastal resiliency and conservation also are important program focuses.
In 2018, the ANR Pollinator Program gained regional attention. Residents from seven counties received research-based information on pollinator decline and conservation, and valuable community partnerships developed. Liberty County Elementary School, Liberty County High School and Keep Liberty County Beautiful collaborated with the UGA Extension ANR agent to create the county’s first UGA Pollinator Spaces. These gardens provide pollinators with needed habitat and serve as venues for environmental discovery and experiential learning for students, after-school programs and adults.
As more people move into the county, homeowner needs increase. Commonly used services include soil, water and plant testing through UGA laboratories and on-site consultations. Residents also benefit from county educational programs developed to address local needs and interests. The ANR agent maintains a weekly column in the Coastal Courier where information about agricultural and natural resource topics are shared.
4-H Youth Development
With an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in schools, the Liberty County 4-H program has been recognized as a partner in public education within the community. All fifth-grade students attending school within Liberty County participate in monthly 4-H lessons concentrating on building science-literacy skills. These hands-on activities meet the Georgia Standards of Excellence and reinforce content being taught in the classrooms.
During spring 2018, Liberty Elementary School completed the process of becoming a Georgia Department of Education STEM-Certified School. Schools completing this certification process must demonstrate a STEM vision and culture, offer a unique and explicit STEM curriculum, and provide STEM teachers ongoing STEM professional learning opportunities. Less than 3 percent of the more than 2,200 public schools in Georgia have obtained the STEM certification.
As a community partner, the Liberty County 4-H Club presented guest instructors in the STEM classrooms, helping teachers achieve the National Science Teacher Association’s goals of STEM education, developing
inquiry and processing skills through first-hand exploration, building instruction around students’ conceptual framework, organizing content around broad conceptual themes, and integrating math and communication skills into science instruction. Eight lessons about soils, plants, and animals were taught to kindergarten, first-, second- and fourth-grade STEM classes. More than 300 students have benefited from this partnership, and one student commented, “I believe that science can change lives worldwide.”